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News Analysis: Suspension of Iranian tourist flights to Egypt bodes ill for bilateral ties

English.news.cn   2013-04-09 05:35:10            

by Shaimaa Behery

CAIRO, April 8 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's decision to halt tourist flights from Iran until the second half of June reflects the difficulty of regaining full diplomatic ties in the near future, analysts said.

Egyptian Tourism Minister Hesham Zazoua said the decision came as Egypt is revaluating and reviewing the experience and tourist programs from the Iranian side.

The Egyptian decision came two days after dozens of Egyptian Salafist protesters demonstrated outside the home of Iran's charge d'affairs in Cairo, demanding the official be expelled.

Eman Abdel Haleem, Iranian affairs expert and political studies professor with the Cairo University, said this decision reflected that Egypt had realized that the steps of regaining bilateral tourism ties came "too early" and that it should have chosen the " right time."

Abdel Haleem said that as Salafists fiercely objected the Iranian existence in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood did not want to "widen the differences with the Salafists."

He also predicted a "tacit agreement" between Iran and Egypt on halting the flights from Iran, citing the Iranian concerns over what happened with Iran's charge d'affairs and over the intensive security measures that were taken with the Iranian tourists in Egypt.

Although Gulf countries' tourism ties with Iran "encouraged" Egypt to also normalize its tourism activities with Iran, Egypt learnt to deliberate, after hearing about seizing spy networks related to Iran in more than one Gulf country, such as Saudi Arabia, said the professor.

Masoad Hassan, former Egyptian ambassador to Iran and head of the Egyptian Iranian friendship association, expected the halt of tourism activities to be "temporary," acknowledging that normalizing relations "needs a long time."

"The Egyptian administration preferred to halt the flights from Iran to give the chance to the society in general and the salafists in specific to realize the normality of the matter," said Hassan. "The decision came to settle the salafists' outrage down."

According to Hassan, there has been a "zionist ploy" which aims at getting Iran -- the Shiit pole in the world -- "discarded" in the Middle East and not to unite with Egypt -- the Sunni pole-- forming a "powerful alliance."

The ties between Egypt and Iran were cut off after Iran's Islamic Revolution and Egypt's peace treaty with Israel in 1979. The two sides started to get closer after the 2011 unrest that toppled Egypt's leader Hosni Mubarak.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi visited Tehran last August to attend the Non-aligned Movements (NAM) conference, becoming the first Egyptian president to visit Iran in more than three decades.

Then in February, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Egypt to participate in the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

On Feb. 28, Zazouz and head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the Iranian capital of Tehran to promote tourism cooperation, a deal on operating non- stop flights between the two countries.

Egypt launched on March 30 its first passenger flight to Iran in more than three decades, carrying eight Iranians including two diplomats; and on March 31 a Iranian tourist flight arrived at Aswan International Airport, as the tourists were scheduled to visit Aswan, and then Luxor and Hurghada.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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