By Allison Lampert
MONTREAL (Reuters) - The United Nations' aviation agency said Monday its panel of security experts will review ways to better protect global airports from terrorism following concerns of lax security raised after a Russian plane was destroyed on Oct. 31.
The International Civil Aviation Organization-led panel, which is to meet in March 2016, will emphasize airport security following the crash of a Metrojet airline in Egypt, ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu told reporters Monday.
"This will address aviation security issues, the existing standards and to see where there are gaps and to see where we need to develop additional guidance material to assist our member states," said Aliu on the sidelines on a global aviation forum in Montreal.
"The security of our member states actually starts, in most cases, at the airport."
While stressing that flying is safe, Aliu said ICAO is focusing on finding a balance between aviation security and the facilitation of air travel. Montreal-based ICAO sets global safety standards for international flights and aviation security standards for its 191 member countries.
Its security audits evaluate countries' ability to oversee their airports, including how well they conform to those standards.
The results of these security audits are confidential.
"Most of our members are living up to those standards," Aliu said.
Aliu declined to comment on any new recommendations from ICAO in the wake of the destroyed plane, which had just departed from Sharm al-Sheikh airport.
"With respect to the events of Egypt, we have to wait for the results of the investigation," Aliu said. "If there are specific recommendations that we need to pay attention to, then you can rest assured that we will take action."
Russia has said the downing of the plane, which killed 224 people, was the result of a bomb, and the country's security service has offered a $50 million bounty to track down the bombers. U.S. and European security sources have said evidence suggested Islamic State was responsible for planting a bomb.
European and US officials have raised concerns over security at the Sharm al-Sheikh airport, with Britain and France initially suspending flights to the tourist region in the wake of the crash.
(Reporting By Allison Lampert; Editing by David Gregorio)