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Kenya, US resume direct flight talks

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 5 – The Kenyan and American governments have resumed discussions on commencement of direct flights between the two countries.

Tourism Minister Najib Balala told journalists that a September 2009 scheduled inaugural flight by America\’s Delta Airlines was cancelled in the last minute after concerns by the American government over the security situation in neighbouring Somalia.

"We had security personnel meeting with the US Embassy and our own security officers from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and Nairobi. Everything was cleared at that time, I think the main issue then was the issue of Somalia, and the US Homeland Security decided to cancel the flight because of Somalia, not because of Kenya.”

"Those issues have now changed. Also, with communication lines now further open, we shall also look into travel advisories on the country by the US as security in the country is stable and most incidents are in isolated areas," he said after a meeting with new US envoy Scott Gration.

The US is Kenya\’s second largest tourism market and the introduction of direct flights will see an increase of tourists to the country.

Delta\’s inaugural flight to Nairobi in 2009, had already been postponed several times when the US believed economic circumstances were not favourable, and subsequently was cancelled on September 21, 2009 just hours before the aircraft was to the leave the US for East Africa.

Ambassador Gration said the change in investment strategy will work in Kenya\’s favour and it is already reaping from the decision by large multinational companies to set up shop in the country.

"Kenya is already like a magnet for international corporations, but there are some issues that need to be dealt with such as the full implementation of the Constitution and stability after the next general elections, it will be easy to get the investment that is needed in this country to help development. I am extremely optimistic these issues will be dealt with," Mr Gration declared.

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He added that democratic reforms in Libya were necessary and they would not be achieved under the regime of current president Muammar Gaddafi. The US wants Kenya not to grant the African leader access to any funds generated from his government\’s investments in the country.

Most notable Libyan interests in Kenya include OiLibya and the Laico Regency hotel among others.

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