Egypt Approves US Involvement in Russia Airplane Crash Investigation

Egypt Approves US Involvement in Russia Airplane Crash Investigation

Part of the Russian plane that crashed. Credit: AP
Part of the Russian plane that crashed. Credit: AP

By Aswat Masriya

Egypt has approved American involvement in the investigation of the deadly Russian plane crash last month, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, adding that this was out of adherence to international agreements.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said in a statement that international agreements on plane crash investigation committees allow for participation in the investigation of the country that manufactured the plane and its engines, as well as its place of registration and the country of nationality of the victims.

Egypt’s foreign minister said Egypt “accepted the application” of American investigators “associated with manufacturers” of the engine of the Airbus A321 plane that crashed in the Sinai desert on Oct. 31, to become part of the investigation team, the CNN reported on Tuesday.

Speaking to the CNN’s The Situation Room, Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said “they are free to incorporate any advisers they deem as necessary for them to undertake the responsibility.”

Shukry added in his statements to the CNN that “international investigation regulations allow Americans to tap advisers for their team,” in response to a question on whether the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) would be part of the U.S. team.

The FBI has previously offered its assistance to both Egypt and Russia.

Abu Zeid said Egypt had notified all countries with the right to participate in the investigation, including the American National Transportation Safety Board, an American governmental investigative agency, since the company that produced the engine Pratt & Whitney, is American.

According to an announcement by the chairman of the investigative committee on Saturday, the Egypt-led investigation team is made up of a total of 58 people, including 29 from Egypt, seven from Russia, six from France where the plane was designed, three from Ireland where it was registered and two from Germany where it was manufactured.

Additionally, 10 consultants from Airbus and a representative from the European Aviation Safety Agency are on the committee. No mention of the U.S. was made at the time.

The Egyptian approval of the American “application” for assistance comes after statements over the past few days by officials from both the Egyptian and the American side, indicating that the American side had not been invited and that the American offer of “forensic assistance” by the FBI, had not been accepted.

Egypt is leading a international investigation team to look into the cause of the crash. The U.S. had extended offers of help to both Egypt and Russia, but on Nov. 9 Reuters reported in a very brief update that “neither Russia nor Egypt have accepted an offer from the FBI to assist them in investigating the crash.”

The Kremlin said on Tuesday that it will not comment on reports relying on unnamed sources including one claiming that the U.S. has offered to help investigate the ill-fated jet.

The White House has acknowledged on Friday “our intelligence officers and our national security professionals were trying to learn everything they possibly could about what exactly happened.”

However, Spokesman Josh Earnest said in a press briefing on Friday, this “does not mean that they are working closely with Russian and Egyptian investigators. Those guys are leading their own investigation.”

Additionally, a Reuters report on Nov. 9 claimed that the U.S. intelligence “intercepted” Russian communications as part of the “pieces of evidence leading U.S. officials to suspect that a device” was planted on the Russian plane.

Both the U.S. and the UK have officially entertained the possibility that the Russian plane was brought down by a bomb planted on the plane. According to statements by Peskov on Monday, the UK has passed “certain data” to Moscow.

Egypt said that states that have supported this theory have not shared information in detail with Egyptian security apparatus.

On Oct. 31, an Airbus A321 operated by a Russian airliner crashed 23 minutes after take-off from Egypt’s popular tourist hub Sharm el-Sheikh, it’s debris spread across at least 13 square kilometers in the Sinai desert, leaving all 224 passengers and crew dead.

The majority of the passengers were Russian, except for four Ukrainians, one person from Belarus and three whose nationalities are unknown.

IS affiliates in North Sinai claimed responsibility for the crash twice in separate statements, one of which was hours after the plane crashed, but was initially dismissed locally and internationally.

Aswat Masriya couldn’t independently verify the authenticity of either claims.

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Aswat Masriya is a Thomson Reuters Foundation-sponsored website that covers Egypt's transition to democracy.

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