UK embassy working with Egyptian authorities to resume services in Cairo – embassy spokesperson

Tuesday 09-12-2014 03:55 PM
UK embassy working with Egyptian authorities to resume services in Cairo – embassy spokesperson

An armed police officer is deployed in front of the Canadian embassy in Cairo December 9, 2014. REUTERS /Mohamed Abd El Ghany


By Rana Muhammad Taha

CAIRO, Dec 9 (Aswat Masriya) – The United Kingdom’s Embassy in Cairo is working with the Egyptian authorities to find "simple and practical measures" to resume its suspended services in the capital as soon as possible, the embassy’s spokesperson said.

The British Embassy in Cairo suspended on Sunday public services due to "security considerations", according to the spokesperson. He added that the decision was taken "to ensure the security of the embassy and its staff."

The spokesperson told Aswat Masriya on Tuesday that the decision to suspend public services was based on the embassy’s "assessment". He added that the embassy’s cooperation with the Egyptian authorities over the embassy’s security is so far "good".

Hany Abdel Lattif, Egypt’s interior ministry spokesman, said that a security delegation has been working on revising the UK embassy’s security measures over the past two days.

Abdel Lattif owed the embassy’s closure to the UK’s fear of terrorist attacks which might target its interests globally, hinting that the embassy had found the security measures insufficient and therefore suspended its services until the measures are reviewed.

In a travel advice to Egypt last updated on Monday, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office warned of "a heightened threat of terrorist attacks globally against UK interests and British nationals from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria."

"There are periodic reviews for the security measures for all diplomatic missions in Egypt," Abdel Lattif told Aswat Masriya. He added that such reviews are often conducted in cooperation with the said embassies.

The Canadian Embassy in Cairo also announced the suspension of its services "until further notice" on Monday, citing "unsettled security conditions".

Abdel Lattif said the Canadian Embassy merely "followed in the footsteps of the [neighbouring] British Embassy."

Both the Canadian and the UK embassies are located in Garden City, a few metres away from one another. Also located nearby is the United States embassy. The latter is nevertheless still operating.

Abdel Lattif said the security measures for embassies in Egypt are "very strong", especially over the past four years.

He denied that the embassies' closure is related to any "fears or threats."

"Egypt is currently witnessing its most stable [security] era over the past four years," he said.

Badr Abdelatty, Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman described the closure of the UK embassy in a press statement on Sunday as a "precautionary security measure."

Abdelatty was not available for further comment on Monday or Tuesday.

A security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Sunday that a recently-detained suspected militant had confessed to Egyptian authorities "plans to target foreign embassies."

The UK embassy spokesperson told Aswat Masriya he cannot comment on such "speculations".

In a travel advice to Egypt posted on Saturday, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs advised its citizens to "reconsider [their] need to travel" to Egypt overall, while advising against travel to North Sinai.

"Reports of early December 2014 indicate that terrorists may be planning attacks against tourist sites, government ministries and embassies in Cairo," the travel advice read.

Militants have stepped up attacks targeting security forces in Egypt, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula, since the army's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013, which followed mass protests against his rule.

At least 30 military personnel were killed in a suicide blast which targeted a security checkpoint in Sinai's Sheikh Zuweid on October 24, in the worst militant attack since Mursi's ouster.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has changed its name to Sinai Province since pledging allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attack in a video released on November 14.

The group claimed last week responsibility for the killing of an American petroleum engineer who was found dead in a car in the desert last August.

The UK embassy did not specify when it will resume its public services in Cairo. The British consulate in Alexandria is nevertheless normally operating, the embassy's website said.

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