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UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain. Egypt seek ICJ law decision over Qatar airspace issue

Saudi Arabia, June 30, 2018

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt have submitted the issue of the sovereign airspace of the four Arab countries with Qatar which is being considered at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on the grounds that ICAO is not competent to consider that dispute.

During a recent session, the ICAO Council considered two requests submitted by Qatar requesting the activation of Article 84 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944) on the settlement of dispute on the interpretation and application of the Chicago Convention and its annexes with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, especially the closure of the sovereign airspace of the four Arab countries to of the aircraft registered in Qatar, as well as preventing them from landing and taking off from the airports of the four Arab countries as well as activation of the second item of Article II concerning the settlement of the dispute over the interpretation and application of the International Transit Services Agreement against those four States.

This action by the four countries to submit the case to the International Court of Justice was taken following the decision of the ICAO Council to grant Qatar the opportunity to hear its demands, which did not include the support of these demands or to call upon the four countries to take any action.

The four States said they decided to object to this decision because they believe that the Montreal-based international aviation body fully exercised its technical competence through the cooperation of the four states with the organisation’s Regional Office in Cairo in developing international alternative airlines for Qatari aircraft in international airspace, taking into account the highest standards of air safety and security in accordance with the Emergency Plan which was discussed at the session of the Council of the Organisation in July 2017.

“In the view of the four countries, the crux of the issue is that Qatar is constantly and severely violating all the sovereign rights of the four countries, including interference in its internal affairs and supporting terrorism, making this conflict primarily a security policy, and the acceptance by the organisation’s council of the study of the Qatari’s claims is therefore illegal as it departs from the technical competence of the Organisation,” they state.

The four States have therefore objected to the ICAO decision by appealing to the International Court of Justice which means that ICAO will cease to consider the Qatari claims until the judgment has been issued. The four States will also continue to exercise their sovereign right to close the airspace to Qatari aircraft under international law.

“It should be noted that the periodic reports of general secretariat of the organisation’s council confirm that all technical procedures for the contingency plan have been implemented and that air navigation over international waters in the Gulf is safe in accordance with the standard rules and recommendations issued by the ICAO,” they state, adding. “the appeals and hearings of the International Court of Justice are expected to take a long time before a decision is made, and accordingly the four States will continue to close their regional airspace to Qatari aircraft in order to preserve their national security and sovereign right guaranteed by international law.”

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