The British government’s decision to stop all British-operated flights out of the Egyptian resort airport of Sharm el-Shiekh caught Egyptian officials unawares.
Egypt’s tourist minister, Hisham Zaazou, told The Daily Beast on Thursday morning: “I greatly regret the British government’s decision to halt flights. It seems to have been hasty and I do not understand the logic behind it.”
British intelligence was caught completely off guard by a terrorist massacre of some 30 British tourists at a beach resort in Tunisia over the summer. This could explain why the Cameron government took sudden and unilateral action following concerns about the circumstances of the Russian jet’s crash.
Responding to the British decision to send a team of security officials to the airport charged with adding another layer to the screening of flights, Zaazou said, “British security officials checked out the airport at Sharm el-Sheikh over a year ago and discovered no problems there.”
The minister was in London with Egyptian government officials as the president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, was holding talks with Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. Those talks were expected to be made more complicated by the way the British government has been handling the security issues at Sharm el-Sheikh—there are as many as 20,000 British tourists at the Red Sea resorts—a number that would require more than 100 flights to carry them home, served by the airport, and many of them are stranded because of the suspension of flights.
“When it comes to security both we and the British put the safety and welfare of passengers first,” Zaazou said. “I expect the British to accept our position and reverse their decision on halting flights as soon as possible.”
The Egyptians were surprised by the stress placed by the British on the possibility that somehow a bomb had been placed on the Russian A320 that crashed in the Sinai on Saturday killing all 224 people on board.
“As to the question of whether the crash was caused by a bomb or mechanical problem” Zaazou said, “all options are still open to investigation and I do not understand why there was a sudden rush by the media to focus on the bomb when there is no evidence to support either conclusion.
“We are keen to have a very transparent investigation and we will accept whatever findings the investigators come to.”