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"Egypt says near meeting Russia's airport security demands"


 
Monday, February 27, 2017

Egypt says near meeting Russia's airport security demands
By Hamza Hendawi
The Associated Press


CAIRO - Egyptian officials said Sunday they were inching closer to meeting all 
demands set by Russia on airport security to resume flights to Egypt, suspended 
after militants from a local affiliate of the Islamic State group downed a 
Russian airliner 15 months ago over the Sinai Peninsula.

Since the crash, Egypt has spent millions of dollars to upgrade security at its 
airports, particularly in Cairo and several destinations popular with foreign 
tourists, like Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada on the Red Sea.

The officials said work has begun to install 16 finger-print security gates for 
employees at two of Cairo airport's main terminals and to raise an existing but 
potentially vulnerable, 1-kilometer (0.65-mile) stretch of fence separating the 
east Cairo facility from a residential suburb.

The officials said 12 finger-print gates have already been installed at 
terminal 2, the airport's newest terminal from which Russian national carrier 
Aeroflot was expected to operate when flights resume. The decision to install 
similar gates at terminals 1 and 3 was recommended by the Russians.

The finger-print scans were purchased in place of retinal scans that airport 
officials had said in October they would tender for the employees' gates but 
which proved to be too expensive and more difficult to operate.

Russian airport security experts have visited Egypt on at least six occasions 
since the October 2015 crash to assess the effectiveness of new security 
measures put in place by the Egyptians to persuade Moscow to resume flights. 
The latest Russian inspection took place earlier this year and the Egyptian 
officials said Sunday they would invite them back in about two weeks to inspect 
the facility one last time before they give the airport their nod of approval.

Russian officials have similarly said that they were close to resuming flights 
to Egypt, but they have not set a specific date.

Moscow suspended air links to Egypt after IS militants downed the airliner in 
2015, killing all 224 people on board and decimating the country's vital 
tourism industry. The aircraft had taken off from Sharm el-Sheikh, in southern 
Sinai, before it crashed.

Britain followed Russia's example and suspended all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh 
after the crash, dealing an equally serious blow to Egypt's tourism industry 
since Britons and Russians accounted for more than half of foreign visitors to 
Egypt on the eve of the crash.

The slump in tourism, along with a series of minor but disruptive terror 
attacks targeting foreign tourists or touristic sites, has significantly 
contributed to Egypt's economic woes, primarily creating an acute foreign 
currency shortage that pushed the local currency's value down in the free 
market.

Among the measures taken to meet Russian security demands was the installment 
of 18 security cameras on the Cairo airport's perimeter fence with a clear 
vision range of two kilometers (1.25 miles) along with equipment that allows 
the storage of 30 days of footage at any given time. The previous ones stored 
up to two days of footage.

Other new security measures in place included sealing off luggage after it is 
cleared by X-ray checks, a process that also applies to on-flight food and 
beverages. Passengers must also remove their shoes and belts for scanning at 
the final security check before boarding. Kiosk-shaped machines designed to 
detect traces of explosives have been installed at arrival halls.

Several gates that open to the airport's grounds and used by employees, like 
engineering and ground services' personnel, have been sealed shut. Those that 
remain open were being upgraded with X-ray machines, finger-print gates and 
police dogs, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because 
they were not authorized to brief the media.

Security related problems at Cairo airport, however, persist.

Airport security officials said a random check on Sunday targeting personnel 
working on the facility's grounds nabbed 23 employees with expired access 
permits, driving without a license or exceeding the speed limit.
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