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CORRECTED-Gulf states ministers meet to discuss airspace logjam
June 15, 2017 / 1:25 PM / 6 months ago

CORRECTED-Gulf states ministers meet to discuss airspace logjam

(In penultimate paragraph, corrects to show that Pakistan made the complaint and not India)

MONTREAL, June 15 (Reuters) - Gulf states and Egyptian transport ministers are meeting on Thursday at the U.N. aviation agency’s headquarters in Montreal, in what would be their first direct talks since a diplomatic row erupted last week that led to the economic isolation of Qatar.

Qatar had asked the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to intervene after its Gulf neighbors closed their airspace to Qatar flights.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt last week severed diplomatic relations with Qatar, accusing it of support for Islamist militants and Iran. The UAE has also decided to blacklist Qatari individuals and entities.

In response, ICAO - a U.N. agency that regulates international air travel under the Chicago Convention - said it would host talks of ministers and senior officials from Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt at its Montreal headquarters on Thursday to seek a “consensus-based solution” that addressed “current regional concerns.”

Most of the officials attending the meeting are expected to be transport ministers, an ICAO representative said on Wednesday.

ICAO has rarely intervened in disputes between states, especially involving overflights, which are governed by a separate international agreement from the Chicago pact that created the UN aviation agency.

In 1971, India closed its airspace to Pakistan in a row over the hijacking of a plane by Kashmir separatists. Pakistan complained to ICAO that its rights had been infringed under both post-World War II aviation agreements – the Chicago Convention and the separate International Air Transit Services Agreement, which guarantees transit rights.

The ICAO Council, however, merely encouraged the two sides to settle their differences, according to a history of the agency by Canadian academic David Mackenzie. (Reporting by Allison Lampert in Monteral; Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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