Lack of passengers delays Tehran-Cairo flights

Tehran–The resumption of direct flights between the capitals of Cairo and Tehran have not yet started due to lack of passengers, the manager of the Iranian airlines Kish Air said on Sunday.

“Whenever we are sure that the flights have sufficient passengers, we will start the flights,” Saeid Bahari told ILNA news agency.

Iran announced about eight weeks ago that direct flights between Tehran and Cairo would resume for the first time in 30 years.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry welcomed the agreement, saying it could also be a positive step towards normalization of bilateral ties.

But observers had predicted that, due to Egyptian reluctance to issue visas for Iranians over security concerns and probable contacts with local Islamist groups, the resumption of flights would be mostly for business purposes and not commercial ones.

“The basic agreement has been reached, but the main problem is (lack of) passengers,' said the Kish Air manager, whose airline was supposed to sign the relevant deals, but has apparently not yet found any interested parties in Egypt.

The two Muslim countries have had no diplomatic ties since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, partially due to Egypt's 1978 peace pact with Israel. However, they maintain interest sections in each other's capitals.

Egypt, which has diplomatic ties with Iran's arch-foe Israel, has on several occasions criticized Iran for its antagonistic approach towards the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Tehran's support for the militant Hamas group.

Iran considers Egypt to be a key power in the Islamic world and wants to normalize ties with Cairo in order to also improve its ties with other Arab states.

Despite efforts by both Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his predecessor Mohammad Khatami to resume full diplomatic relations with Egypt, the government in Cairo has been hesitant to do so.

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