Qatar to push opening of transportation links at UN agency special hearing
MONTREAL — Qatar’s battle with four Middle Eastern neighbours will be fought in Montreal on Monday where the country’s transportation minister will urge a UN agency to pressure the countries to reopen severed transportation links.Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti says he will present a technical case in a closed special hearing about what he claims are illegal moves by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Egypt.“We are asking the international organization to do something on that because we are talking about the sovereignty of countries,” Al-Sulaiti said in an interview.The minister said the countries are required by the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation to maintain open access to and from Qatar.“We must respect what we signed for,” he added.Al-Sulaiti wants six or seven international flight corridors to open so Qatar Airways can carry international passengers. It will also try to ensure airspace over the countries will be opened for all carriers and will mount a separate case against Bahrain.Letting the countries get away with targeting one country opens the door to other states taking similar action in the future against another, he said.A nearly two-month blockade against Qatar initially stranded passengers and has resulted in a 30-per-cent drop in customers on the luxury airline. Qatar has gotten around a sea blockade by arranging new routes to India and other partners.Al-Sulaiti said the dispute has also curtailed tourism, hotel bookings and flights to the four countries. For the first time, he said Dubai hotels are offering promotions to fill rooms.“Everybody loses out in this matter, not just Qatar Airways.”While the blockade has eaten into Qatar Airways profits in part due to costly detours around closed airspace, the minister said the Gulf’s second-largest airline remains profitable and won’t be deterred from its plans to purchase aircraft and add destinations.Transportation ministers from the four countries will present defences. Their Canadian embassies didn’t immediately respond with comments. Neither did the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the specialized agency of the United Nations, which will host the meeting.Al-Sulaiti said it’s up to ICAO to decide how to enforce the rules.He hopes a solution will be reached within a week but failing that, Qatar could take its case to International Court at the Hague.While Al-Sulaiti and a dozen associates will present their technical arguments, the minister said he anticipates a political solution to the broader dispute will eventually be reached.Qatar has hired a Washington lobby firm founded by Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who left in May, to gain access to the White House, which has close ties to Saudi Arabia.The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties and transport links with Qatar in early June, accusing it of supporting extremists. Qatar denies the charge and sees it as politically motivated.Follow @RossMarowits on Twitter.