Expect a war of words between Moscow and Cairo this week, after Egyptian investigators concluded that the recent aircraft crash in the Sinai desert was most likely not the result of sabotage or terrorism, contrary to Russian claims in the six weeks since the disaster.
“The technical investigative committee has so far not found anything indicating any illegal intervention or terrorist action,” said the Egyptian civil aviation authority, announcing the conclusion of a preliminary investigation into the Metrojet crash, which killed 224 (mostly Russian) people on 31 October.
Egypt’s chief investigator, Ayman al-Muqaddam, took pains today to confirm that his investigation is far from over. Wreckage is yet to be transferred to Cairo for a more thorough analysis, and the technical details and repairs carried out on the Airbus A321 since it was built in 1997 have yet to be looked into.
Although Russian officials have yet to see the official report, a Kremlin spokesman said: “I can remind you of the conclusion of our experts from the special services, who came to the conclusion that it was a terrorist action.” British investigators agreed that a bomb on the plane appeared the most likely cause of the crash. Shortly after the crash, Egyptian investigators also went on the record as saying that they were “90 per cent certain” that the audio evidence indicated a bomb-induced explosion.
Although there is no evidence of coercion from the government in Cairo, the Egyptian tourism industry has been severely harmed by the tumult in the region since the commencement of the Arab spring, and another violent event would certainly do the country’s travel sector few favours. The report is, however, preliminary. New evidence may emerge and judgement should therefore be reserved until the presentation of the final report.