Two months after crash, Egypt hires consultants to review airport security
CAIRO - Egypt said Tuesday it has appointed a global consultancy firm to review security at its airports, nearly two months after a Russian airliner crash in the Sinai killed 224 people.
London-based Control Risks, a specialist in protecting organisations in hostile environments, will initially review security at Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh airports, officials said.
The tourism minister denied the move was linked to the October 31 crash.
It was from Sharm airport that an A-321 operated by Russia's Metrojet left for Saint Petersburg before breaking apart in mid-air over the Sinai, minutes after take-off from the Red Sea resort.
Everyone on board, mostly Russian holidaymakers, was killed in what Moscow says was a disaster caused by a "terrorist attack".
Egypt's branch of the jihadist Islamic State group said it had downed the plane with a bomb.
Based on information gathered by their intelligence services, Washington and London say it was likely a bomb caused the crash.
Wary of the impact on its lucrative tourism industry, a key foreign revenue earner, Cairo maintains there is no evidence a bomb brought the plane down.
"The Egyptian government has appointed Control Risks to commence work immediately to provide a comprehensive review of airport security in Egypt," Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou said at a press conference.
"This will commence with the airports at Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh immediately."
The Metrojet disaster has dealt a body blow to tourism in Egypt, a cornerstone of its already faltering economy.
"Given Egypt's position as a major tourist destination... we have to address this global threat to security that is highly hiked up around the world," Zaazou said, speaking in English.
"This is why we are committed to a world-class gold standard in security at our airports."
He denied that the hiring of Control Risks had anything to do with the Sinai crash.
Hiring Control Risks did not mean Egyptian security teams will not be present at airports, Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said.
The aim was to "ensure that the highest standards of airport security are met", he said.
Days after the October disaster, Moscow halted all Russian flights to and from Egypt. Britain has suspended air links with Sharm el-Sheikh.
Millions of tourists, mostly Britons and Russians, have flocked to Sharm el-Sheikh, attracted by its year-round pristine beaches, warm weather and dive sites.
British ambassador to Cairo John Casson welcomed the appointment of Control Risks, saying it would soon allow flights from Britain to Sharm el-Sheikh to resume.
"Britain was the first to raise security concerns about Sharm airport and Britain wants to be the first to restart flights, so that tourism can lead the revival of Egypt's economy," he said in a statement.