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Qatar welcomes ICJ ruling against ‘blockading states’

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DOHA (AFP) – Qatar on Tuesday welcomed a ruling by the International Court of Justice backing Doha in an aviation dispute with neighbours, saying the blockading countries will face justice for violating international rules.

“We welcome today’s decision by the ICJ that will see the blockading states finally face justice for violating international aviation rules,” Qatar’s Minister of Transport and Communications, Jassim Saif Ahmed al-Sulaiti, said.

The ICJ ruling allows Qatar to challenge airspace restrictions imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt over three years ago, before UN aviation body the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Saudi Arabia and the UAE said they respected the decision but denied the ruling dealt with the merits of the case.

In June 2017, the four countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed an aviation embargo,  accusing it of backing radical Islamists and Iran.

“We are confident that the ICAO will ultimately find these actions unlawful. This is the latest in a series of rulings that expose the blockading countries’ continued disregard for international law and due process,” Sulaiti said.

The Hague-based court unanimously “rejects the appeal” by the rival states against a decision by the world civil aviation body in favour of Qatar over sovereign airspace, ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said.

The ICAO in 2018 ruled it had the jurisdiction to handle a dispute brought by Qatar, which accused its neighbours of violating a convention that regulates the free passage of its passenger planes through foreign airspace.

But the four allies disagreed, saying the ICAO was not the right body to judge in the dispute.

They had asked the ICJ to declare the aviation body’s ruling “null and void and without effect.”

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Abdulaziz Abu Haimad, said on Twitter that Riyadh respected the court’s decision but the ruling had nothing to do with the merits of the case.

The UAE said it  “will now put its legal case to ICAO supporting the right to close its airspace to Qatari aircraft”.

 

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