Egypt, Iran to resume direct flights after 31-year hiatus

Egypt and Iran have signed an agreement to resume direct flights between their respective capitals for the first time since diplomatic relations between the two nations were cut in 1979.

According to Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority head Sameh al-Hafni, 28 scheduled flights will begin carrying travelers between Cairo and Tehran every week.

No explanation was offered as to the circumstances that led to the deal, and an Egyptian government spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Iran severed ties with Egypt after the latter signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979 and provided asylum to Iran's deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

According to the terms of the agreement announced Sunday, a privately-owned company called Egyptian Mission will regulate and organize the weekly trips to Iran.

In a memorandum signed by al-Hafni and deputy chief of the Iranian National Aviation Company Hamid Ghavabesh, the two parties agreed to resume direct flights but did not specify aircraft types or capacities.

Al-Hefni said the accord would replace an earlier one signed between the two countries in 1976 and would allow both sides to enter into "commercial arrangements" and participate in "joint operations."

In a related development on Saturday, an Iranian health delegation met with Egyptian Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali as well as a number of other Egyptian health officials to discuss proposed joint projects in the fields of health and medicine.

Egyptian independent weekly Al-Osboa reported that an informal Egyptian envoy had recently traveled to Tehran to meet with senior Iranian officials before meeting with the Iranian vice president.

According to the newspaper, Cairo has issued instructions to initiate the restoration of diplomatic relations with Tehran–including an exchange of ambassadors–by signing a number of economic, touristic and cultural memorandums.

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