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"ICAO to intervene in Qatar airspace blockade"
Friday, June 16, 2017
UN Aviation Agency Brokers Crisis Talks on Qatar Flight Blockade
By Deena Kamel and Krystal Chia
A United Nations agency will broker a meeting between Qatari aviation officials
and counterparts from Arab countries, as the tiny Gulf nation tries to regain
air rights and mitigate the economic fallout of the crisis.
Senior envoys from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain will gather
at the International Civil Aviation Organization this week to continue
diplomatic discussions about the flight embargo, the UN agency said by email.
ICAO has been reviewing requests from Qatar to ease a ban that its government
Qatar's neighbors severed diplomatic and transport links to punish it for
allegedly backing Islamic militants, a charge the Gulf nation denies. The
resulting isolation has forced the world's richest country by capita to open
new trade routes to import food and other essentials, and added hours to flight
times as pilots circumvent its neighbors' airspace.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker called on ICAO to declare
the blockade illegal, saying in a statement on Wednesday it is "in direct
contradiction to the convention that guarantees rights to civil overflight."
While the region's second-biggest airline maintains that operations to and from
its Doha hub are running smoothly and the carrier will continue expanding its
network as planned, Al Baker told Al Jazeera he's concerned the carrier "will
underperform" as the political standoff casts "some dark clouds."
Since Qatar Airways can no longer serve 18 destinations in the region due to
the ban, it will steer unused capacity to new locations, Al Baker told the
Qatari news network. That will help the carrier continue its expansion and
allow it to earn a "good profit" next year after boosting earnings by 22
percent in the fiscal year ending March 2017.
The ban imposed by the four Arab countries will also affect their national
carriers, including the world's biggest long-haul airline Emirates, and erode
confidence in the region's air connectivity, Al Baker said.
ICAO is working to "bring these states together towards a solution which
satisfies both their current regional concerns and the global needs and
expectations of passengers and shippers," the agency said in its email.
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