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Qatar Receives Preliminary Green Light from UN for Control of Own Airspace
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Qatar Receives Preliminary Green Light from UN for Control of Own Airspace

Qatar has been given permission “in principle” by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to establish its own Flight Information Region (FIR) and Doha Search and Rescue Region (SRR) in its airspace; months after resolving a rift with its neighbours.

The Background

The decision came in response to Doha’s request to step out of the agreement that was signed with neighbouring Gulf monarchy Bahrain, under which it had delegated its navigation services to Bahrain over its sovereign territory. Qatar was on a three-year row with its neighbouring Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia.

In 2017, the regional bloc had broken ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism, that Doha had denied. The neighbouring countries imposed far-reaching stringent measures, including banning Qatari planes from their airspace, restricting Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia, and throwing out the Qatari citizens. This left Qatar to entirely rely on access to airspace controlled by other countries.

In December 2020, Qatar’s ambassador to the UN wrote a letter addressed to the Security Council members and to the Secretary of the UN, General Antonio Guterres, that Bahraini military aircraft intruded Qatar’s airspace by flying over the country’s territorial waters.

Gulf Reconciliation

This year, in July, the International Court of Justice refused an appeal by the blockading quartet against the world civil aviation body’s decision in favour of Qatar over sovereign space. Qatar’s Transport Minister Jassim Al-Sulaiti said that “the principle” would include Qatar’s sovereign airspace to enhance safety and efficiency of the regional airspace, along with other neighbouring airspaces over the high seas.

He also said that the proposal illustrates one of the sovereign rights of the State of Qatar and highlights the huge investments that Qatar made to develop its air navigation system. Qatar, which is all set to host the 2022 World Cup, is already a major player in the airline industry through Qatar Airways. Along with the Dubai-based Emirates, it is one of the largest airlines in the Middle East.

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