Egypt and Iran have agreed to resume direct flights between their capitals for the first time since 1979, Egypt’s ministry of civil aviation said on Monday, but an official played down any chance of a political thaw.
The two countries severed ties in 1980 following Iran’s Islamic revolution and Egypt’s recognition of Israel.
Sameh Hefni, head of Egypt’s civil aviation authority, and Hamid Ghavabesh, deputy chief of the Iranian national aviation company, signed an agreement providing for up to 28 flights between Cairo and Tehran per week, the ministry said in a statement. No start date for the flights was given.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hosam Zaki said the deal strengthened existing economic ties between the two countries, but added that political ties were a different matter.
"It is a development in the relations between Egypt and Iran," Zaki told Reuters. "Both countries have economic interests that have not stopped regardless of the political situation.
"But political developments require certain conditions Egypt has voiced in the past," he added.
The two countries are at odds on a number of issues including the Middle East peace process and ties with Israel and the United States. The deal was struck as Iran faces pressure from international economic sanctions.
Egypt is upset with Iran for continuing to praise Khaled Islamboli, who assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981 following the peace deal with Israel.
The two regional powers, predominantly Shia Muslim Iran and mainly Sunni Egypt, have competed for influence in the Middle East.