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 tranport ministers and aviation officials from Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt kicked off a two-day meeting 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 neighbouring states,” according to an ICAO statement.
The 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.
The 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,” the 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 travelling 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.