QATAR TAKES AIR EMBARGO TO UN … SAUDIS DEFEND IT
CAIRO, June 13, (Agencies): The Arab League said Monday it supported His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s mediation between some Arab countries and Qatar.
Secretary General Ahmad Abul Gheit expressed his support to the Kuwaiti leader’s mediation efforts during a phone call with First Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, who briefed the Arab League chief on His Highness the Amir’s good offices to end the current dispute, the league said in a statement.
Abul Gheit appreciated the Kuwaiti mediation and said “what His Highness the Amir of Kuwait is doing represents all Arabs not just the GCC,” it said. He hoped the mediation efforts be successful and all parties reach a common ground to solve their differences “and establish sound relations based on non-interference in internal affairs of any party.”
Abul Gheit hoped principles of good neighborliness, respecting political choices of all countries, abiding by Arab League Charter and resolutions on counter-terrorism and extremism be respected His Highness the Amir has pledged to continue his mediation efforts to reconcile GCC member states. His Highness the Amir made the pledge in remarks during reception, in Kuwait Monday, of Chairman of the Arab and International Relations Council Mohammad Al-Sager at Bayan Palace.
The remarks will be published by Al-Jarida daily tomorrow (Tuesday) His Highness the Amir pledged that he would not be hampered by fatigue or any difficulties in his quest to re-establish the bonds and tackle the differences among the GCC States. “It is very difficult for us, we the generation that established the GCC 34 years ago, to see some members engage in disputes that may lead to dire consequences,” His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad said. “This is a duty that I will not abandon,” he stressed, pledging to continue the efforts to tackle inter-GCC differences.
King of Morocco Mohammed VI on Tuesday applauded the efforts of His Highness the Amir to find a solution to the Gulf crisis. This came in a statement issued by the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation following a meeting in Kuwait between Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and His Highness the Amir.
The Moroccan King voiced full support to His Highness the Amir’s efforts to heal the Gulf rift and to contain the inter- Gulf crisis through dialogue among the GCC countries, according to the statement.
During his visit to Kuwait, the Moroccan foreign minister delivered a verbal message to His Highness the Amir from the Moroccan King. The Moroccan foreign minister is visiting Kuwait as part of a Gulf tour aiming at easing out Gulf tensions. France, meanwhile, affirmed on Tuesday its support to Kuwait’s efforts in defusing tension amongst Gulf countries.
A statement by the French Foreign Ministry stated that France has close relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and all other partners in the region. It stressed that it is necessary to deescalate Gulf tensions and to meet hopes and expectations of the Gulf people. His Highness the Amir discussed with France’s President Emmanuel Macron earlier on Monday by phone bilateral ties, issues of common interest and latest regional developments.
Qatar has asked the United Nations’ aviation agency to intervene in an airspace rights’ dispute with three Gulf states following an escalating diplomatic row and trade blockade, two sources familiar with the matter said on Monday. Qatar has sent a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) governing council in an effort to resolve the dispute after Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain closed their airspace to Qatari flights. The Gulf state has indicated that it will ask the council to resolve the conflict, one of the sources said, using a dispute resolution mechanism under the 1944 Chicago Convention which is overseen by ICAO. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because council business is discussed in private. It is not yet clear whether the ICAO council, which is holding regularly scheduled meetings in Montreal this week, would agree to intervene, and how long any efforts would take. The matter is expected to be discussed at council by Friday, said one of the sources. “I would not expect any overnight resolutions,” he said.
ICAO spokesman William Raillantour Clark said the agency could not make an immediate comment. The UN aviation agency, which is headquartered in Montreal, does not impose binding rules, but wields clout through safety and security standards that are usually followed by its 191-member countries. Earlier in the day, the chief executive of Qatar Airways told CNN that ICAO should declare the measures against Qatari air traffic to be illegal. “We have legal channels to object to this,” he said. “ICAO… should heavily get involved, put their weight behind this to declare this an illegal act.” Baker said 18 destinations were now out of bounds for the airline.
He also criticised Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both members of ICAO’s governing council, for shutting down the airline’s offices. He added that he was “extremely disappointed” in US President Donald Trump. “(The US) should be the leader trying to break this blockade and not sitting and watching what’s going on and putting fuel on (the) fire,” he said. Trump last week waded into the worst Gulf Arab rift in years and praised the pressure on Qatar, which Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain accuse of supporting Iran and funding Islamist groups, charges Doha denies. Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority said on Tuesday that the closure of its airspace to flights from Qatar was within the kingdom’s sovereign right to protect its citizens from any threat.
The agency was commenting in reaction to remarks made by Qatar Airways’ chief executive that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were violating international law by shutting out Qatari flights. The airspace closure was to protect the country and its citizens from anything it sees as a threat and as a precautionary measure, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency. Similar statements were also issued by the UAE and Bahraini aviation authorities after Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker criticised the three Arab countries for the airspace closure in an interview with CNN.
The United Arab Emirates and Qatar have long been major proponents of open-skies air transport agreements which remove restrictions on flying between states. These policies helped the region’s largest airlines — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways to develop their home airports as hubs linking passengers travelling between the east and west. “From an industry viewpoint it’s unfortunate and disappointing when airlines get caught up in broader political sensitivities which inhibit the benefits of competition and consumer choice, which the region is renowned for,” independent aviation consultant John Strickland told Reuters. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar a week ago, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies.
In all 18 destinations in the region are now out of bounds for Qatar Airways, which has also been forced to close its offices in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Qatar Airways will now use the aircraft that had been operated on those 18 destinations to fast track its expansion plans, al-Baker later told Al Jazeera in an interview on June 13. Al-Baker, warning that the blocking of airspace would also hurt competitors by undermining confidence in the region’s “air connectivity”, did not say which markets it would expand to.