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EU, U.S. Will Continue Talks on Laptop Ban

  • Expanding electronics ban ‘still on the table,’ U.S. says
  • Airlines, Europeans push for security measures short of a ban

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and European Union leaders agreed to continue talks on whether to expand an American ban on laptops in airliner cabins to include flights from Europe, the two sides said.

Kelly in a call with European Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said that the proposed U.S. expansion of restrictions on large electronics was “still on the table," according to an emailed statement from the Homeland Security department.

The European Union, which has pushed back against an expansion of the ban, characterized the discussions Tuesday as “positive and constructive,” according to a statement.

“Both sides agreed to intensify talks both at technical and political level to find common solutions to mitigate potential threats to aviation security and work together to step up security requirements,” the European Commission said in the statement.

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The two sides don’t agree on the best way to handle what the U.S. considers to be a growing threat that explosives could be smuggled inside laptops, tablet computers and e-readers, said one EU official, who wasn’t authorized to speak about the talks and asked not to be named said.

The U.S. on March 21 barred electronic devices larger than a mobile phone from being carried in airliner cabins on flights departing for America from 10 Middle East and North Africa airports. Passengers’ devices must be carried in the cargo hold.

In recent weeks, the U.S. held talks with airlines and officials in other nations on expanding the ban to flights leaving Europe and other regions. Kelly said Sunday that he was also considering a ban on the devices aboard international flights departing from the U.S.

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Both U.S. and European Union officials agreed on the need to improve aviation security across the globe, DHS said in its statement.

U.S. carriers have suggested a variety of measures short of a ban to reduce the threat while allowing travelers to use their devices, according to an emailed statement from Airlines for America. The measures include more checks for explosives, visual inspections of devices and questioning passengers about their electronics.

“We continue to believe that security and efficiency are not mutually exclusive goals,” the group, which represents most large carriers, said in the statement.

— With assistance by Mary Schlangenstein, and Michael Sasso

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