Egypt guarantees safety of stranded Russian and Ukrainian tourists

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Egypt, which welcomes hundreds of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians to its Red Sea hotels each year, said Thursday it would guarantee the stay of tourists from the two now-warring countries until their "safe return.

On the same day that Vladimir Putin's Russian army launched a massive air and ground attack on Ukraine, Egyptian tourism officials met, according to a tourism ministry statement.

They decided that "tourists from countries where air traffic is disrupted will be allowed to stay in the hotels where they are staying in Egypt until they can safely return home".

Many airlines stopped flying to Ukraine even before the fighting began, while on Thursday flights were cancelled from airports in major cities in southern Russia, close to Ukraine.

On the diplomatic front, while the West has sanctioned Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Egypt's foreign ministry on Thursday called for "dialogue and diplomatic solutions" rather than "escalation".

After a six-year hiatus, direct flights from Russia to Sharm el-Sheikh and Hourghada on the Red Sea resumed in 2021, giving hope to Egypt's tourism sector - which employs two million people and generates more than 10% of GDP - which has been at half-mast since the Arab Spring in 2011 and, as it recovered, was hit hard by travel restrictions to combat Covid-19.

Many Ukrainian tourists are also used to these resorts, which specialise in full-board accommodation in huge seaside resorts and which receive 65% of tourists visiting Egypt.

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