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UN agency to review airspace blockade against Qatar

ICAO says it will assess request by Doha to intervene after Gulf states closed their airspace to Qatar flights.

Qatar flights

The United Nations aviation agency has said it will review requests from Qatar to intervene after its Gulf neighbours closed their airspace to Qatar flights.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency that regulates international air travel under the Chicago Convention, said it would host talks of envoys from Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt at its Montreal headquarters on Thursday to seek a "consensus-based solution" that addressed "current regional concerns."

"ICAO is presently reviewing requests from the government of Qatar to assess the flight restrictions imposed upon it by neighboring states," according to an ICAO statement.

ICAO, which was created after the United States invited more than 50 allies to agree to a common air navigation system in 1944, has no policing powers and has to rely on consensus to enforce its will.

ICAO's decision to intervene in the Gulf airspace dispute is a rare instance of the UN body directly attempting to settle a row between states.

"We are working to bring these states together towards a solution which satisfies both their current regional concerns and the global needs and expectations of passengers and shippers," ICAO said.

The United Arab Emirates 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.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE said the closure of their airspace to flights from Qatar was within the two countries’ sovereign right to protect their citizens from any threat.


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