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Following Qatar Airspace Case Ruling, Saudi, UAE Take Desperate Measures
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Following Qatar Airspace Case Ruling, Saudi, UAE Take Desperate Measures 

Last updated on July 16th, 2020

The diplomatic crisis over Qatar airspace that began in 2017 seems to be far from over as the neighbouring Gulf nations continuously try to keep the blockade intact. The UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia recently filed an appeal in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), against a previous ruling by UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The Gulf countries have long criticised Qatar for funding terrorist activities, claims which the country has always denied. But, even after three years of the diplomatic embargo, the blockade-imposing countries have lost the appeal at the International Court of Justice to stop complaints by Qatar over sovereign airspace. The ICAO that previously claimed that it is not responsible for making judgements in Qatar’s dispute with other nations, now stands involved with ICJ’s new announcement.

While backing Qatar in its legal battle with other Gulf states, UN’s top court stated that the ICAO has jurisdiction to rule in the aviation dispute. The decision came after the four nations called for the ICAO’s right of jurisdiction in the row and stood firm to their grounds of not allowing Qatari planes to take flight in their skies, despite the ruling.

As known, the blockade banned Qatari-registered planes and ships from utilising the airspace and sea routes of the four Gulf nations. While limiting Qatar airspace, the quartet nations cut trade, transport and diplomatic links to the country, claiming that it violated a 2014 agreement with GCC members and aided terrorist groups. Six other governments later joined the action.

The coalition also wanted Qatar to reduce its diplomatic relations with Iran, which is also Saudi’s rival in the Middle East. But the boycott has only improved Qatar’s relations with Iran and Turkey. Iran also allowed Qatar to use its airspace. Since the start of 2020, the US has been making efforts to resolve the Gulf crisis, but has consequently failed in doing so. So far, it has not been able to convince Saudi to reopen its airspace for Qatar.

The Court of Justice’s rejection of appeal in Qatar airspace case is now expected to bring a bitter regional row. The UAE has expressed its wish to involve the ICAO in its legal case supporting the right to close its airspace to Qatari aircrafts.  

On the other hand, Saudi too is not happy with the ICJ’s favouring of Qatar. It appears as if the Kingdom is reflecting its anger through other mediums. Saudi recently announced permanent cancellation of the license of Qatari broadcaster beIN Sports.

BeIN Sports was barred from broadcasting in Saudi since the time of the blockade. On Tuesday, the Kingdom’s General Authority for Competition (GAC) said it was also fining beIN Sports 10 million riyals ($2.7 million) for practices “that restrict competition”.

The accusations stated that beIN Sports abused its dominant position through several monopolistic practices during the 2016 Uefa European Championship matches. BeIN has called the decision “nonsensical on every single level” and “plainly absurd”. 

Meanwhile, Qatar has always argued that the blockade violates the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which allows planes to fly into foreign airspace. The officials actively welcomed ICJ’s ruling in Qatar airspace case. Speaking on the same, Qatar’s minister of transport and communications said, “We welcome today’s decision by the ICJ that will see the blockading states finally face justice for violating international aviation rules.”

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