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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

UAE to file UN complaint on Qatar's interception of Emirati planes

Emirates says Doha violated the Chicago Convention, which governs the use of airspace 

Saif Al Suweidi, director general of the UAE's General Authority of Civil Aviation, welcomed the decision by the ICAO council, and said the decision recognised "the validity of the UAE complaint". Sarah Dea / The National
Saif Al Suweidi, director general of the UAE's General Authority of Civil Aviation, welcomed the decision by the ICAO council, and said the decision recognised "the validity of the UAE complaint". Sarah Dea / The National

The UAE said on Tuesday it would file a complaint against Qatar at the UN aviation agency after Qatari jets intercepted two Emirati civilian aircraft.

The Emirates would accuse Doha of violating the Chicago Convention, which governs the use of airspace, in a formal complaint to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, said Saif Al Suwaidi, director general of the UAE's General Authority of Civil Aviation (GCAA).

Qatari fighter jets intercepted two UAE passenger planes in international airspace that were heading to Bahrain on Monday morning.

Mr Al Suwaidi said the jets twice flew close to the airliners as they descended towards Bahrain International Airport in separate incidents on Monday, and could be seen by the pilots and passengers.

“The Qatari fighter jets flew dangerously close to the UAE airliners and were about 400 feet away from the aircraft,” he said, according to Sky News Arabia.

He also said Bahraini radar determined the fighter jets took off and returned to Doha. Mr Al Suwaidi would not disclose which UAE airlines had been affected, but Bahrain’s state news agency BNA reported on Monday that one of the flights was Emirates and the other Etihad.

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Bahrain’s state television aired radar footage on Tuesday it described as showing Emirates flight EK837 travelling from Dubai towards Bahrain International Airport at 3,170 metres and two other radar signals, described as Qatari fighter jets, flying at around 2,590 metres. The radar screen briefly flashed orange text, likely a collision warning.

The broadcaster also aired footage of an aeronautical chart that showed a Qatari fighter jet flying across the flight path of a just-passed airliner that flew direct from Abu Dhabi to Bahrain.

Mohammed Thamer Al Kaabi, undersecretary of Bahrain's ministry of civil aviation affairs, said Manama had already "filed a report to the International Civil Aviation Organisation about the two separate incidents".

Mr Al Suwaidi also said the UAE could consider re-touring its flights as a precautionary step, reported Reuters.

Asked if the UAE would consider escorting civilian aircraft, he said the Emirates could "use different tools to protect its airlines". He did not elaborate.

Saudi Arabia condemned Monday’s interception of the two airlines, saying Qatar’s action was considered “a threat to the safety of civil aviation and in violation of international laws and conventions”.

An official source at the Saudi ministry of foreign affairs said the flights were “regular, scheduled, with a well-known route that meets the approval of internationally recognised permits”, reported the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

Both planes landed safely in Manama and were able to complete their return flights to the UAE without incident.

Mr Al Suwaidi also said the flights were regular services and that Qatar had shown no prior objection to their routes.

He did not elaborate on the details of the encounters but said the Qatari jets had acted in a dangerous manner and put the lives of innocent civilians at risk.

Qatar denied it intercepted the planes.

Monday’s incident could further escalate tensions between Qatar and the four Arab countries that have been boycotting it since June last year.

Last week, Doha twice accused Emirati fighter jets of violating Qatari airspace. Following the first claim, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said Doha's accusation was "untrue and confused".

On Tuesday, Yacoub Al Hosani, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said the UAE Permanent Mission to the United Nations had delivered the Emirates' official response to Qatar's allegations to the UN Security Council.

The Ministry "confirms that the military aircraft was outside Qatari airspace" and it condemns Qatar's efforts to escalate the situation, reported the UAE's state-run news agency, Wam. It added that the Ministry urged Doha to abide by international laws.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar in June last year over allegations it supports extremist groups and has interfered in the affairs of other countries.