UAE and Bahrain grant Qatar Airways new routes after ICAO negotiations
August 09, 2017: After two months of blockade United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have granted Qatar Airways permission to fly in new routes after International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) carried out closed door negotiation talks with various Middle Easters states. Qatar Airways can now access a new route over international waters in the Gulf controlled by the UAE and Bahrain, the world aviation agency announced.
Talking to AFP news agency Anthony Philbin, spokesperson for Montreal-based ICAO, said the world aviation agency has been working with “various Middle Eastern states to ensure equitable access to airspace for Qatar-registered aircraft" since sanctions were announced on June 5. "Some existing air route availability has been assured, and some new temporary or contingency routes have also been developed, including through Bahrain and UAE airspace,” Philbin told the news agency.
"The ICAO and the states involved are continuously monitoring related air route suitability and ATM (air traffic management) measures, which may still be subject to further modification if necessary, by mutual agreement," Philbin added.
Qatar, according to a report in Al Jazeera, called the decision as a 'great success' as planes registered in the country gain some access after over two months of blockade. As part of the Gulf blockade, airspace for all Qatari-registered aircraft were either denied or restricted.
Qatar had asked the ICAO to approve new routes after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt banned Qatar Airways from their airspace as part of the economic and diplomatic boycott. The UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting "terrorism", an allegation Doha vehemently denies.
The air traffic restrictions have caused headaches for the 2.4 million residents of Qatar, 90 percent of whom are foreigners, as flights were forced to take longer routes, for example, to Southeast Asia. Even movement of goods to the peninsular Arab country was becoming too challenging and more expensive.
The breakthrough on Tuesday follows a closed-door meeting last week between delegates and UN aviation agency's governing council in Montreal. According to media reports, those at the meeting discussed contingency routes that had been planned as part of a preliminary agreement reached earlier this month, but not yet opened to Qatar-registered flights. Doha had asked ICAO to intervene after its national carrier was denied access to the Saudi-led group's airspace.
According to a statement from Qatar's Civil Aviation Authority, “the new route was a great success for Qatar, given its ability to convince the ICAO of the importance of compliance by the siege countries to the Chicago Convention".