DN - Defence Notes

UAE air force told 'not to escalate' Qatar air dispute

23rd January 2018 - 21:03 GMT | by ​Agence France-Presse in Abu Dhabi

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The air force of the UAE has been ordered ‘not to escalate’ a civil aviation dispute with Qatar, a military official said on 23 January.

In a statement Brig Gen Hilal Sayeed al Qubaisi said: ‘From the beginning of the Qatari provocations, we were given instructions from our superiors not to escalate in this area as part of our commitment to the principle of regional security and peace, and also for the safety of these planes and those on board.’

Qubaisi said the UAE's air force - a key member of a Saudi-led military coalition which has intervened in Yemen's war - had developed ‘new routes’.

Qubaisi added: ‘Our air force can reach the usual destinations using Saudi airspace. This action by Qatar will never affect the movement of our military aircraft.’

The UAE has accused Qatari fighter jets of ‘intercepting’ two Emirati passenger planes en route to Bahrain recently and has since filed a complaint to the United Nations (UN).

It said Qatari fighter jets had flown within 3.2 kms of two flights descending towards Bahrain's international airport, drawing a swift denial from Doha.

The two countries have clashed over alleged airspace violations in recent weeks, as a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf enters its eighth month.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Qatar in June 2017 over Qatar's alleged ties to Islamist extremists and Shiite Iran.

Qatar, which denies the accusations, is banned from using the airspace of the four states under the boycott, although UAE airlines continue to operate flights through Qatari airspace.

Abu Dhabi is now looking at re-routing flights to Bahrain to avoid Qatari airspace.

For its part, Qatar has accused UAE fighter jets of violating its airspace both in December 2017 and January 2018, and it has filed formal complaints with the UN.

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