The civil aviation authorities of Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE have said they are calling on the United Nations’ aviation agency to intervene in a new set of alleged airspace violations.
Bahrain’s transport ministry announced on 27 March that it had lodged a complaint with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) after two Qatari warplanes allegedly entered its national airspace without authorisation.
The ministry claimed the Qatari jets deliberately flew close to “a UAE Airbus 320” en route from the east coast emirate of Fujairah to Rome, causing the flight to climb to a higher altitude. The announcement didn’t identify the commercial airline in question.
The director general of the country’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) Ismail Al Blooshi said the alleged violation “endangered the lives of civilians on board and is a clear violation of International Civil Aviation Treaties, and actually puts international civil aviation traffic at risk,” according to UAE state news agency WAM.
The GCAA said the violation followed a similar incident in January, when two commercial aircraft – operated by Emirates and Etihad – that were en route to Bahrain International Airport were allegedly intercepted by Qatari jets. The GCAA said it had reported the matter to the ICAO.
The Qatari Civil Aviation Authority denied the latest claims, saying the GCAA’s announcement was “an attempt cover multiple breaches of Qatari airspace”. The authority also accused Bahrain of “constantly breaching the Qatari airspace”.
The Qatari state news agency meanwhile carried reports that the country had filed its own complaint with the UN Security Council, alleging that a Bahraini warplane had entered Qatari airspace over the weekend.
The UAE and Bahrain, alongside Saudi Arabia and Egypt, closed their national airspace to Qatar in June last year, accusing the country of supporting terrorist groups.
Qatar sent a letter to the ICAO on 12 June asking it to enact a dispute resolution mechanism set out under the Chicago Convention, which would see ICAO’s council vote on the validity of the airspace restrictions.
In July, Reuters reported that the ICAO was opening three contingency routes for Qatar Airways flights, which the neighbouring Gulf states had reportedly endorsed. However, Qatar has continued to the boycotting countries were guilty of discrimination under international treaties.
Qatar had already brought a World Trade Organization case against the UAE over the blockade, reportedly including Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in its initial complaint. The complaint triggered a 60-day window to settle issues through talks but, on 10 August, the chairman of the WTO's dispute settlement body said the UAE had refused to engage.
In January, Qatar's foreign ministry spokesperson Lulwa Al Khater said the country had “begun moving internationally to seek arbitration or [go to] international courts or UN institutions" to end the blockade.
Al Khater cited a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which documented “violations” by the blockade states following a visit to Qatar and meetings with government and civil groups as well as citizens who are affected by the restrictions.
She added that “all options" were on the table.