Airspace ban on Qatari flights to protect citizens: Riyadh

A Qatar Airways plane lands at Hamad International Airport in Doha. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2017

Airspace ban on Qatari flights to protect citizens: Riyadh

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority said on Tuesday that the closure of its airspace to flights from Qatar was within the Kingdom’s sovereign right to protect its citizens from any threat.
The agency was commenting in reaction to remarks made by Qatar Airways’ chief executive that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain were violating international law by shutting out Qatari flights.
The airspace closure was to protect the country and its citizens from anything it sees as a threat and as a precautionary measure, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Similar statements were also issued by the UAE and Bahraini aviation authorities after Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker criticized the three Arab countries for the airspace closure in an interview with CNN.
The UAE and Qatar have long been major proponents of open-skies air transport agreements, which remove restrictions on flying between states.
These policies helped the region’s largest airlines — Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — to develop their home airports as hubs linking passengers traveling between the east and west.
In all 18 destinations in the region are now out of bounds for Qatar Airways, which has also been forced to close its offices in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Qatar Airways will now use the aircraft that had been operated on those 18 destinations to fast track its expansion plans, Al-Baker later told Al Jazeera in an interview.
Al-Baker, warning that the blocking of airspace would also hurt competitors by undermining confidence in the region’s “air connectivity,” did not say which markets it would expand to.
The UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority said it was fully committed to the Chicago Convention, but reserved the sovereign right under international law to take any precautionary measures to protect its national security if necessary, UAE state news agency WAM said.
Meanwhile, the UAE civil aviation authority said the air embargo imposed on Qatar only applies to airlines from Qatar or registered there.
The embargo bans “all Qatari aviation companies and aircraft registered in the state of Qatar” from landing or transiting through the airspace of the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, according to the statements published by the national agencies of the three countries.
The ban does not apply to aviation companies and aircraft not registered in Qatar and the three neighboring countries, and which wish to cross their airspace to and from Qatar, they said.
An exception is made for private planes and charter flights to or from Qatar, which require permission to transit through the airspace of the three countries, the statements said.
A permission request must be submitted 24 hours in advance and include a list of the names and nationalities of both crew and passengers, as well as the nature of cargo on board.


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 22 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”