Egypt dismisses US calls to revoke Iranian aviation deal

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner last Thursday urged Egypt to revoke the air travel deal it recently struck with Iran until the nation "complies with its international obligations". Egypt, however, has since dismissed the request and is pledging to move forward with the agreement, according to a high-level source in the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The source added that the agreement does not violate the laws of the Organization of Air Transportation or the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), nor does it contradict the decisions of the Security Council which placed sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program.

The source indicated this agreement will replace the previous deal between the two countries, initiated in 1976. 

American opposition to the agreement is under consideration, according to the source, who emphasized the agreement does not support Iranian nuclear activity. A number of countries have trade agreements with Iran, chief among them Russia, the source noted. 

According to President of the Authority for Civil Aviation Sameh Hafni, 28 regular flights will be run weekly–14 flights from each side. The agreement constitutes a resumption of air transportation between the two countries, which ceased when diplomatic ties were severed between Egypt and Iran in 1980. Hafni said the agreement did not specify what model of planes would be used. All flight organizations and companies are welcome to engage in the agreement, according to Hafni.

Pilot and aviation expert Ali Amin said that the economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council do not include sanctions on air travel. Global flight companies, some of which are owned by Western nations, still run flights to and from Iran, just as Iranian airlines like Iran Air are not banned from flying in global airspace, nor is any flight banned from landing or taking off in any airport, Amin said. He said American opposition is founded in American interest only.

Amin said that as long as the agreement has been signed, it must be carried out, and America is well aware of this. Amin predicts that operations on this route could equal the volume of flights between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He warned against private monopolization on the agreement.

Tourist marketing expert Mamduh al-Shishtawy said if the resumption of flights comes to fruition, Egypt can expect 1.5 million Iranian visitors every year. The Egyptian Tourism Board years ago finished preparing a reference guide on the site of the path of the Prophet Mohamed's family in Islamic Cairo and throughout Egypt, al-Shishtawy noted. But, he said, Iranian tourism is not all religious–much of it is for leisure travel.

Translated from Arabic Edition.

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