Qatar Air Ban Matter of National Emergency: Saudi-Led States

A Saudi-led group of countries has told the United Nations’ aviation agency that “emergency conditions” justify a three-year diplomatic impasse with Qatar that prevents that nation’s planes from flying over some neighboring territories.

Foreign affairs ministers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain wrote to the International Civil Aviation Organization last week to say that announcements made in 2017 allowed them to bar Qatar-registered aircraft from their skies under a provision designed for states of war or national emergency, according to letters seen by Bloomberg News. They cut ties with the tiny Gulf natural-gas producer because of its alleged support for terrorism and friendliness with Iran.

In a response to the Montreal-based ICAO, Qatar Transport Minister Jassim bin Saif Al Sulaiti said the countries hadn’t officially declared a state of emergency in 2017. He also referred to allegations that Qatar supports terrorism and its perceived threat to neighboring countries as “tired” and “libelous.”

A spokesman for Montreal-based ICAO said representatives from 36 countries elected to its council would discuss the dispute at their next meeting in October.

The letters mark the latest installment of a lengthy legal battle that’s seen Qatar plead its case in front of U.N. agencies and other intergovernmental organizations. The block on using certain countries’ airspace complicates travel in and out of Doha, the capital, with many Qatar-registered aircraft forced to fly over Iran.

The International Court of Justice last month rejected an appeal from the Saudi-led bloc to oversee the dispute, passing it back to the ICAO.

Airspace has been a key flash-point in the three-year-old rift. The issue was the focus of a recent push by the U.S. to resolve the impasse, in part because it complicates American foreign policy toward Iran.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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