Egyptair will offer flights to Juba

Egyptair, the country’s flagship carrier and one of Africa’s largest airlines, will begin flying twice a week to south Sudan next month as Egypt seeks improved ties ahead of a planned 2011 referendum on secession.The state-owned airline’s flights to the southern capital Juba, will start on August 6, the company said on Tuesday, adding to its 26 flights to Khartoum.”Expanding in Africa comes in line with a strategy to offer more services and investments in this continent, one of the fastest growing markets in the world,” Hussein Massoud, chairman and chief executive officer of the Egyptair holding company, said in an emailed statement.

Egyptair, a member of the Star Alliance network, has also recently started flights to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Abuja in Nigeria.

“We have ambitious expansion plans and we will continue to seek new destinations in Africa and increase the frequency of flights,” said Captain Alaa Ashour, chairman of the airline.

Egypt has been looking to improve ties with south Sudan ahead of a planned 2011 referendum that would determine whether the largely Christian and animist south can secede from the Muslim north.

The referendum was promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended Africa’s longest civil war — a decades-long conflict between north and south Sudan in which an estimated 2 million people were killed and 4 million forced to flee their homes.

Egypt said in July it would give the government of south Sudan a non-refundable grant of $300 million for water and electricity projects as it seeks to build goodwill among Nile Basin countries, the source of almost all its water.