Putin, Sisi agree on ‘close’ security service cooperation

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi today agreed “close cooperation” between their security services after Moscow said a bomb brought down its passenger jet over Sinai.

“In the context of the efforts to find the criminals involved in the terrorist act against the Russian airliner, close cooperation was agreed on between the security services of Russia and Egypt,” the Kremlin said in a statement after the leaders spoke by phone.

The intention is to put in place “additional measures to assure the maximum security of air traffic between the two countries in order to reestablish it as soon as possible,” the statement said.

Moscow yesterday said for the first time that the Airbus plane that crashed shortly after take-off from the Sharm el-Sheikh resort on October 31 was destroyed by a bomb but Egypt has not confirmed the attack.

Cairo has insisted it is waiting for the results of an Egyptian-led probe before giving a definitive verdict on what caused the crash that killed all 224 people on board.

Egyptian authorities, however, said on Tuesday that they were enhancing security in airports around the country over the possibility the plane was “targeted by a terrorist attack”.

Moscow suspended all flights to Egypt on November 6 citing the need to bolster airport security, but at the time it played down growing Western suspicions that a bomb had blown its plane out of the sky.

Putin has pledged to find and “punish” those responsible for the attack — the bloodiest against a Russian target since the Beslan school massacre in 2004 — and his security service has offered a USD 50 million reward to help find the culprits.

While Moscow has not explicitly blamed any specific group for the attack, jihadists linked to the Islamic State (IS) group have claimed responsibility and Russian jets stepped up air strikes against IS targets in Syria after confirming the bombing.

Moscow launched a massive operation to repatriate tens of thousands of stranded holidaymakers after cutting air links with Egypt and Russia’s state tourism agency told TASS news agency that the last of those planning to come back would return home today.