November 6, 2010 / 9:58 AM / 9 years ago

Afghanistan defends flight safety in face of EU ban

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan still has time to prove its commercial aircraft have adequate safety regulations, a transport official said on Saturday, despite reports Afghan aircraft will soon be banned from flying to the European Union.

EU aviation experts meet in Brussels on Nov. 9-11 to discuss the issue of airline safety and a ban could be put in place within two weeks of their decision after scrutiny by the European Parliament.

Dawood Ali Najafi, Afghanistan’s acting minister of civil aviation and transport, will attend the Brussels meeting. A spokesman for the ministry said there was still time to defend the safety of Afghanistan’s aircraft.

“We have much improved our flight safety, rules and regulations and will stand to defend it,” spokesman Nangyalai Qalatwal said. “If we fail, then a ban could be imposed but it is too soon to say.”

A source at the EU’s executive Commission told Reuters in Brussels on Friday all Afghan airlines would soon be banned from flying to the European Union because it has failed to develop a system for regulating safety.

Afghanistan does not have the basic infrastructure to ensure aircraft safety, the source said, and has no aircraft registry, certification or inspection.

The United States already bans landings by Afghan carriers. National carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines already appears on the EU’s blacklist, but it is allowed to continue flying to Frankfurt, using leased aircraft.

Afghanistan’s private Safi Airways also says it flies to Frankfurt, apparently using the same legal provisions. Another private Afghan carrier, Kam Air, also advertises flights to Vienna and London Gatwick.

Ariana currently flies two Airbus A310-300s, one Airbus A300/B4, four Boeing 727-200s, one Boeing 727 freighter and one Antonov 24, its website says.

Afghanistan relies on foreign aid, its economy destroyed by three decades of war and civil unrest. Experts say a ban on Afghan aircraft flying to the EU would only do more damage to attempts to revive the Afghan economy.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi in KABUL and Pete Harrison in Brussels; Editing by Paul Tait and Andrew Marshall)

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