Qatar Airways has launched international arbitration seeking at least $5bn from four Arab countries as compensation for blocking it from their airspace and removing it from their markets.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have essentially banned the airline since June 2017 when they cut all ties with Qatar and imposed an air, land and sea blockade on it over accusations of supporting “terrorism”. Doha denies the charges outright and says the quartet aims to infringe on its sovereignty.
Qatar Airways said in a statement on Wednesday the measures specifically targeted the carrier with the aim of closing its operations in the four countries, destroying the value of its investments and causing widespread damage to its global operations.
“The decision by the blockading states to prevent Qatar Airways from operating in their countries and flying over their airspace is a clear breach of civil aviation conventions and several binding agreements they are signatories to,” Akbar al-Baker, Qatar Airways CEO, said.
“After more than three years of efforts to resolve the crisis amicably through dialogue yielded no results, we have taken the decision to issue Notices of Arbitration and pursue all legal remedies to protect our rights and secure full compensation for the violations,” he added.
“The blockading states must be held accountable for their illegal actions in the aviation sector, which includes a failure to comply with their obligations under bilateral agreements, multilateral agreements and international law.”
The airline said it was seeking damages through four investment arbitrations under three treaties, including the Arab Investment Agreement.
The move comes after Qatar last week won a procedural dispute before the United Nations’ top court, which allowed the International Civil Aviation Organization to rule in a case Doha brought before it over the blockade.
Qatar welcomed the July 14 ruling by the International Court of Justice, saying it would lead the blockading countries to “face justice” for violating international aviation rules.
A number of efforts to end the crisis, mediated by Kuwait, have so far failed to resolve it.