Gulf-Qatar conflict still unresolved; Moves to ICAO

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Qatar Airways
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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has concluded that the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has the authority to address Qatar’s civil aviation allegations against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and others.

The UAE announced that it will now put its legal case to ICAO supporting the right to close its airspace to Qatari aircraft.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt had severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, accusing it of supporting “terrorism” and “destabilizing the region” which was fiercely denied by the nation.

Severe wide-ranging restrictions were imposed at Qatar including banning Qatari planes from their airspace, closing Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia and expelling Qatari citizens.

Qatar has moved to ICAO accusing its neighbors of violating a convention that regulates the free passage of its passenger planes through foreign airspace.

The four nations (Quartet) objected, saying the ICAO was not the right body to judge in the dispute and that its decision to do so was “manifestly flawed and in violation of fundamental principles of due process and the right to be heard.”

They had asked the ICJ to declare the aviation body’s ruling “null and void and without effect.”

Commenting on the ICJ’s decision to move proceedings back to ICAO, Dr. Hissa Abdullah Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the Netherlands responded.

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.

We have the highest respect for the Court and will be looking at its decision closely. 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.

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. The UAE believes that the Council will not attempt to second-guess the national security decisions of ICAO member states. In the meantime, the UAE’s airspace measures remain in effect.

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.