UAE: Airspace still closed to Qatar flights, case to go before global aviation body

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The United Arab Emirates said that it will present to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) the legal case supporting its right to close its airspace to Qatari aircraft, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.

The UAE’s statement came after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided earlier in the day that the ICAO had jurisdiction in the airspace dispute.

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The Quartet – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt – had severed diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism – a charge Doha denies.

“The ICJ’s decision was technical and limited to procedural issues and jurisdiction to address the dispute; it did not consider the merits of the case,” said UAE's ambassador to the Netherlands, Hissa Abdullah al-Otaiba.

“There are important points in the judgment that the UAE and Quartet will rely on in proceedings before the ICAO Council. We note that other important questions have been left unanswered by the judgment; issues that we will address in front of the ICAO Council,” she added.

Al-Otaiba stressed that the UAE’s airspace measures regarding Qatar will remain in effect.

“We look forward to explaining to the ICAO Council that the UAE restricted Qatari planes from UAE airspace as one of a number of measures flowing from the termination of relations by ten states, including the UAE. This was in response to Qatar’s longstanding support for terrorist and extremist groups and its active steps to promote unrest in the region.”

She added: “This crisis will not be resolved in ICAO or in any other international organization. Relations will only improve when Qatar implements the Riyadh Agreements and is willing to demonstrate that it will play a constructive role in the region.”

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Abu Haimed said the Kingdom respected the ICJ’s decision, but wanted to clarify that the decision was limited to stating the ICAO’s jurisdiction and had nothing to do with the merits of Qatar’s complaint.

Bahrain's non-resident ambassador to the Netherlands, Fawaz bin Mohamed al-Khalifa, also said that ICJ's decision only upholds ICAO's jursidiction over Qatar's complaints without "bearing on the substance of the dispute or the merits of the baseless Qatari claims," according to state news agency BNA.

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