Saudi, UAE and allies submit Qatar airspace dispute to International Court of Justice

The countries said UN aviation body ICAO “was not competent” to consider the dispute



The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt are bringing a sovereign airspace dispute with Qatar to the United Nations (UN) International Court of Justice, the four countries said on Wednesday.

The group, which began a boycott of Qatar more than a year ago, said they were submitted their complaint to the court on the grounds that UN aviation body the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) “was not competent” to consider it.

This followed a normal session of the ICAO Council where members considered two formal requests by Qatar to activate the Chicago convention and end an airspace ban by the four countries on Qatari aircraft and airlines.

“This action by the four countries to submit the case to the International Court of Justice comes in view of 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,” UAE state news agency WAM said.

“The four states decided to object to this decision because they believe that the organisation has 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.”

The statement went on to raise issues related to the Qatar boycott, including allegations that the country was interfering in the sovereign affairs of its neighbours and supporting terrorist groups, and argued this made the dispute a security policy.

“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.”

The UAE has separately complained to ICAO of at least four alleged interceptions of its civilian aircraft by Qatari fighter jets in Bahrain’s airspace over the last six months.

Read: UAE complains to UN over alleged Qatar aircraft interceptions

WAM said the appeal an appeal of the ICAO decision to consider Qatari claims at the International Court of Justice would halt any further progress on the issue until the court has issued a judgement.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi and the UAE said they would argue the decision to consider Qatar’s claims was in violation of international law.

However, they will continue to cooperate with ICAO and its members in all areas.

Their airspace will remain closed to Qatar on national security and sovereign grounds until a court judgement, with WAM outlining how the appeals and hearings “are expected to take a long time before a decision is made”.

Qatar reportedly filed its own lawsuit against the UAE at the International Court of Justice earlier this month accusing it of human rights violations as a result of the boycott, which began on June 5, 2017.

The UAE’s minister of State for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said the country was “not surprised” by the lawsuit and accused Qatar of lying about previous claims that its citizens and residents were being blocked from performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Read: UAE minister dismisses Qatar’s lawsuit as ‘lies’