UN aviation decision could rob Iran of hundreds of millions of dollars

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New UN court ruling could help pave way for resolution of three-year-old blockade of Qatar, experts say, which could cost Iran hundreds of millions of dollars it would receive for aviation overflight rights.

“We welcome today’s decision by the ICJ that the states blocking will ultimately be tried for violating international aviation rules,” said Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti, Minister of Transport and Communications from the State of Qatar.

The United Nations’ highest court in The Hague has said that the International Civil Aviation Organization, the global agency that oversees international air travel, has jurisdiction so that Qatar Airways can fly over the airspace of neighbors of the Gulf of Qatar.

Four of these countries – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – imposed a blockade on Qatar in June 2017 which, among other measures, prohibited flights from Qatar into their territory, forcing the departures and arrivals to fly over Iran instead.

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“We are confident that ICAO will ultimately judge these actions illegal. It is the latest in a series of decisions denouncing the blocking countries’ continued disregard for international law and due process. Their arguments are gradually being dismantled and Qatar’s position justified, ”said the minister.

Relaxing the blockade restrictions on Qatar Airways so that its planes no longer fly over Iran would make travel much safer for U.S. troops stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and for U.S. diplomats stationed in Doha, officials said. observers.
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ICAO could decide that the air blockade is illegal and that the boycott has violated an international convention governing international aviation. But the UAE seems convinced that this will not happen.

UAE Ambassador to the Netherlands, Hissa Abdullah Al Otaiba, said the decision was “technical and limited to questions of procedure and jurisdiction to settle the dispute; he did not examine the merits of the case. She said the United Arab Emirates will explain to ICAO why it imposed a boycott of Qatari planes.

Tehran would be paid about $ 133 million a year by Qatar for the use of its airspace by flights arriving and departing from Qatar. Relaxing the blockade restrictions on Qatar Airways so that its planes no longer fly over Iran would make travel much safer for U.S. troops stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and for U.S. diplomats stationed in Doha, officials said. observers. This restriction could be removed. Under the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization that govern global air travel, a blockade does not affect overflight rights, which means that the United Nations court has supported Qatar’s position.

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According to experts, an agreement on the question of overflight would constitute a small but necessary first step towards the reunification of the Gulf.

“An easy way to document the quarrel is to lift airspace restrictions. At the moment, all Qatar Airways flights to and from Doha are paying a fee to fly over Iran since the feud closed another airspace, “said Rebecca Grant, a national security veteran. analyst and president of IRIS Independent Research in Washington, DC

“The United States has strong and important military relations with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The question is whether Washington (with the help of Kuwait) can leverage the boycott, “said Grant.

The decision comes when one of the blocking countries, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is not responsible for the persistent deadlock.

“Unfortunately, there has been no movement towards a solution to the Gulf divide,” an Arab diplomat familiar with the issue, told Fox News. “There is no resolution in sight mainly because we have seen no attempt by Qatar to resolve the flaw. ”

Gulf countries broke ties and published a list of 13 requests from Qatar, including: the closure of the Al Jazeera TV station, the closure of a Turkish military base and the reduction of relations with Iran, among others requests. Links have been cut to what GCC members have long accused of being Qatar’s support for Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and other radical Islamic groups, as well as other matters. Doha has always denied these allegations.

Analysts hope the restrictions on Qatar can be lifted as a way for the region to consolidate against the threat from Iran.

“The Qataris have not examined the cause of their relations with Iran. Qatar has chosen to prioritize relations with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood over its neighbors. This is one of the many reasons why the gap has not been resolved, “said the diplomat. Fox News. “The quartet clearly expressed its position with the 13 requests. To date, not only has Qatar refused to respond to these requests, but it has continued to support extremists and terrorists across the Middle East. ”

For its part, Qatar has ostensibly accused its neighbors of the impasse, accusing them of making unjustified demands which also violate international law.

“The State of Qatar welcomes all efforts to end this divide that has hampered the unity of the GCC and complicated regional problems, including those of importance to the United States,” said the Qatar State government communications office to Fox News in a statement.

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“Qatar thanks both Kuwait and the United States for their efforts to find viable solutions to the GCC crisis. From the start, we engaged in a dialogue with our neighbors in good faith. ”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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