Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide joined his counterparts worldwide in condemning the Egyptian military’s brutal and deadly attacks on demonstrators this week. The foreign ministry also warned against travel to Cairo and Northern Sinai, and hundreds of Norwegian tourists were being sent home.
Charter tour companies were arranging to send their clients back to Norway, also from areas where tourists themselves haven’t seen any sign of the violence sweeping through other areas of Egypt. Inge Barikmo and his family told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that they’d been told by their tour operator, Ving, that they’d be sent home from Maqabi Bay outside Hurghada on Friday.
“We were told around 6pm (on Thursday) that the foreign ministry had warned Norwegians against travel to Egypt, and that prompted Ving to decide to send their clients home,” Barikmo told NRK.
Barikmo said neither he nor his family had experienced any unrest around their hotel, and that hotel staff didn’t seem concerned. There were reports of clashes, though, in Hurghada, a popular tourist area, between security forces and those supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and its elected but toppled Islamic Mohamed Morsi.
‘Not an evacuation’
“We’ll follow the ministry’s advice and travel home,” Barikmo said. Ving and other charter tour operators including Apollo and Star Tour said they were working to arrange flights and expected to offer transport back to Norway to most of their clients within the weekend. They’ve also cancelled the rest of their summer tour program which runs until October, more bad news for the struggling Egyptian tourism industry.
Elisabeth Larsen-Vonsett, spokesman for Star Tour, stressed to news bureau NTB that “this isn’t an evacuation, but a controlled suspension” of the tour company’s program. Egypt has long been a popular destination for Norwegian tourists, not least in the autumn and winter.
Foreign Minister Eide, meanwhile, has condemned the Egyptian military’s attacks on demonstrators as “unwarranted use of violence.” Eide said he had spoken with Egypt’s acting prime minister, Hazen el Beblawi, and that he’d urged “that everything must be done to avoid a bloodbath, that the security forces must follow international commitments to human rights, and that all parties must show restraint.”
Eide said he still had some hope that the situation in Egypt can stabiize but he admitted that it now had “all the characteristics of a military coup: An elected president is removed, a civilian vice president has resigned and the strongman is a military leader.”
Norway cancelled all export licenses of defense materials to Egypt earlier in the week and froze all transport of such products that can aid the military earlier this summer.