By Ahmed Abbas
Egypt accepted an offer from the US to assist in the investigations on the Russian A321 plane that crashed in Sinai on 31 October.
“Egypt has already accepted the offer of American investigators that are associated with the manufacturers of the engine to become part of the investigative team, and they are free to incorporate any advisers they deem necessary for them to undertake the responsibility,” Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told CNN Tuesday.
The US National Transportation Safety Board is waiting for more specific information on when and where the plane’s engines will be brought to be examined before it dispatches a team, as the plane’s engines were built by American manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
US officials relied only on intelligence to predict that the plane was brought down by a bomb, but this will be the first time for them to access the wreckage.
Regarding whether FBI agents could be involved, Shoukry said international investigation regulations allow the US to tap advisers for their team.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the international organisations’ regulations regarding the investigation “allow countries that manufactured the plane or the engines, or that registered the plane, in addition to the country where the plane crashed to participate in the investigation”.
Meanwhile, Yandex, Russia’s biggest Internet company, reported its search engine had received about 11,000 requests concerning sea and land travel to Egypt. The company’s press service added that the intensity of such requests had surged on Sunday.
The most popular search phrases were “how to get to Egypt by train” “how to get to Egypt by car,” and even “how to get to Egypt on foot”. Russian tourists also researched the possibility of getting to Egypt from neighbouring countries, in particular Israel and Turkey, said the company.
According to the Russian Tour Operator Association (ATOR), companies had already sold about 160,000 trips to Egypt for the upcoming New Year vacations. ATOR director Maya Lomidze told Russian official agency TASS that the flight ban to Egypt is likely to take a long time.
“Over the past few years flights to Egypt have been banned several times, but it is the presidential decree for the first time, which creates different legal conditions for consumers,” Lomidze said.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich’s press secretary told reporters on Tuesday that at the moment it was impossible to give a date when the ban would be lifted.
“Any discussions over terms are not feasible before safety is assessed and various recommendations are received,” the official noted.