Iran, Egypt agree to resume flights between cairo and Tehran

Egypt and Iran have agreed to resume direct flights between their capi-tals for the first time in three decades. Following talks in Egypt, officials said 28 weekly flights would resume between Cairo and Tehran, but did not specify when they would begin. Ties broke down in 1980 in the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and Egypt’s recognition of Israel. Ties remain strained, but Iranian media said the move could be a prelude to the resumption of formal ties. The agreement was signed by Egyptian and Iranian civil aviation authorities, but as yet, no explanation has been given of what led to their deal.Rami Lakah, who runs privately owned company Egyptian Mission, said that the contract with Iranian counterpart, Kish Air, was for eight years. Tensions between Egypt and Iran rose in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution  when Egypt gave asylum to the deposed Shah of Iran. Iran also opposed Egypt’s recognition of Israel. For the past three decades, the two regional powers  one predominantly Shia Muslim and the other mainly Sunni – have competed for influence in the Middle East and maintained only interest sections, rather than embassies, in each other’s capitals, the BBC’s Yolande Knell reports from Cairo. While there have been few recent signs of improving relations, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency has suggested the visit of an Iranian delegation to discuss air travel and tourism  could be the prelude to the resumption of dip-lomatic ties.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that the relationship was “going ahead in a natural way”. The countries have not had full diplomatic ties since the Iranian Islamic revo-lution in 1979. The announcement follows a recent thaw in relations, including a landmark phone call between presidents Mubarak and Ahmadinejad last week. In their first direct talks, the leaders are reported to have discussed the Pal-estinian issue and other regional concerns. Mr Mottaki said that Assistant Foreign Minister Ali Asghar Mohammadi had deliv-ered a special message to Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Ahmad Ali Abu-al-Ghayt.There was no indication of what the message contained but Mr Mottaki said that Iran was now waiting for our Egyptian brothers to express their readiness to establish relations. The relationship between the countries has been strained for three decades, largely over Egypt’s diplomatic ties with Israel, which Iran does not recognise. Egypt also gave sanctuary to the deposed Iranian Shah following the Islamic revolution. Egyptian officials told news agency that some security concerns still needed to be resolved before full relations could be restored.

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