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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Ambassadors briefed on UAE jet incidents

Briefing of envoys from the five states with permanent seats at UN Security Council comes as Qatar's Minister of Defence described the activity as a training incident

Qatari fighter jets have acted in a dangerous manner, the UAE claims after its two passenger planes were once again intercepted. Pawan Singh / The National
Qatari fighter jets have acted in a dangerous manner, the UAE claims after its two passenger planes were once again intercepted. Pawan Singh / The National

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said it had given leading ambassadors details of its forthcoming complaint to the UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) over Qatar military planes intercepting UAE flights.

The ambassadors of the so-called P5 – US, UK, China, Russia and France – as well as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt attended the update on the threat posed to civil and military aviation by the Qatari activity. The presentation included co-ordinates, satellite data and radar images that tracked the violations of the UAE flight paths.

The presentation documented the co-ordinates of the Qatari Mirage fighter jets when the two airliners were intercepted over the Arabian Gulf and far from Qatar's airspace.

A representative of the armed forces also rejected Qatari claims of a prior UAE military infraction of its airspace. The material showed the aircraft has been flying within UAE airspace at the time of the alleged incident, including a 30-second transit of a shared boundary.

Qatar's defence minister, meanwhile, attempted to explain away reports that their fighter jets intercepted the UAE aircraft as he conceded that a training mission was taking place in the area. He maintained it was not an act of deliberate disruption.

During the initial reporting of the incident, Saif Al Suwaidi, head of the Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority, had said that the first interception happened at 10.30am and the next at 11am. Bahrain's foreign ministry identified one of the planes as Emirates flight number EK837.

Confronted with the reports while speaking at an event at RUSI, a London-based think tank, the Qatari defence minister, Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah said: “Pilots train every day, there is activity every day to train your pilots – this story is false”.

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Bahrain state television aired radar footage the broadcaster described as showing Emirates flight No. EK837 from Dubai flying toward Bahrain International Airport at 10,400 feet. Two other radar signals the broadcaster described as Qatari fighter jets flew at around 8,500 feet in front of the Emirates flight. The radar screen briefly flashes orange text, likely a collision warning.

It was not clear from the footage at what distance the fighter jets allegedly passed the Emirates flight, but Bahrain previously described the distance as being 2 miles.

The broadcaster also aired footage of an aeronautical chart it said showed a Qatari fighter jet flying across the flight path of a just-passed Etihad airliner, both at 8,000 feet. It identified the flight as ETD23B, which corresponds to Flight No. EY371, a direct Abu Dhabi-Bahrain flight that took off Monday morning.

In response to the material produced by the Bahraini government had included radar maps and other evidence of the event, Al Attiyah added: “Bahrain is with the quartet, and linked to them, the images do not show what they mean, they need to analyse them. If the jets are flying at 23,000 feet and above, and commercial flights at 9000 feet. that does not mean they are intercepting them".

He also said the boycott by the Arab Quartet, which has called on Doha to curtail its support for Islamist extremism, was followed by an increase in Qatar’s ties to Iran, building on “lots of opportunity” since the stand-off began. The two states have a shared interest in the exploitation of regional energy reserves. “Our largest gas field is shared with Iran, we didn't make it, it's natural. There was lots of opportunity to get closer to Iran after the [boycott], Iran reached out. We have to thank them for this, they supplied us with food and medicine.”