Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's plane was barred from entering the kingdom's airspace this week while on a flight to Iran because it did not have the right permit, Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority has said.
The Gulf-state’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said on Monday that the only reason the plane was turned back was due to the permit, countering suggestions that the move was linked to international arrest warrants out for Bashir or to his country’s ties to Tehran.
The government of Sudan did not submit an official application for a diplomatic permit for the plane.
"The government of Sudan did not submit an official application for a diplomatic permit for the plane," the state news agency SPA cited Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation as saying late on Monday.
Saudi authorities had blocked the plane carrying Bashir from entering its airspace on Sunday, who was on his way to Tehran likely to attend the inauguration ceremony of the new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday.
The Sudanese government had failed to officially request a diplomatic permit 48 hours prior to the flight, as per regulations, according to a statement released by the kingdom’s aviation authority.
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim kingdom, has repeatedly voiced fears about the controversial nuclear programme of Shia-dominated Iran, whose warships twice docked in Sudan late last year.
Khartoum has tried to balance ties with both Tehran and Riyadh. Sudanese presidential press secretary Emad Sayed Ahmed had said that Bashir was not flying in his normal presidential aircraft but was using a plane rented from a Saudi company.
Iran's ISNA news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi as saying on Sunday that flight permissions for Bashir's plane had been obtained in advance but that it was still refused entry and forced to return to Khartoum.
The Hague-based International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 issued two warrants against Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region. Bashir denies the charges.