DUBAI, June 13 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s aviation body said on Tuesday that closing its airspace to flights from Qatar was within its sovereign rights to protect its citizens from any threat.
The Saudi comments were in reaction to remarks by Qatar Airway’s chief executive that the kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were violating international law by shutting out Qatari flights.
The airspace closure was within its sovereign right to protect the country and its citizens from anything it sees as a threat and as a precautionary measure, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.
Similar statements were also issued by the UAE and Bahraini aviation authorities after a CNN interview of Chief Executive of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, who criticised the three Arab countries for the airspace closure.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar a week ago, accusing it of fomenting regional unrest, supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, all of which Doha denies.
Al Baker had appealed to the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency which administers the Chicago convention that guarantees civil overflights to declare the airspace closure as illegal.
The UAE General Aviation Authority said it is fully committed to the Chicago convention, but the state reserves the sovereign right under international law to take any precautionary measures to protect its national security if necessary, according to UAE state news agency WAM.
The three countries’ aviation bodies also said non-Qatari private and chartered flights from Qatar must submit requests to them at least 24 hours before crossing the airspace.
The request should include a list of names and nationalities of crews and passengers, and the cargo carried by the aircraft, they said.
Reporting by Celine Aswad and Saeed Azhar; Editing by Christian Schmollinger