July 22, 2020 / 10:56 AM / 14 days ago

Qatar Airways seeks $5 billion compensation from Arab bloc over airspace ban

FILE PHOTO: A Qatar Airways passenger plane comes in to land at London Heathrow airport, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 21, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - Qatar Airways is seeking at least $5 billion in compensation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain for blocking it from their airspace, the state-owned carrier said on Wednesday.

The airline has been banned from the airspace of the four countries since June 2017 when they cut ties with Qatar over accusations it supports terrorism. Doha denies the charges and says the bloc aims to infringe its sovereignty.

Qatar Airways said the measures specifically targeted the airline and aimed to close its operations in the four countries, destroying the value of its investments and causing damage to its global operations.

The airline is seeking the damages through four investment arbitrations under three treaties, including the Arab Investment Agreement, it said in a statement.

Representatives of the four Arab states could not be immediately reached for comment.

“After more than three years of efforts to resolve the crisis amicably through dialogue yielded no results, we have taken the decision to issue notices of arbitration and pursue all legal remedies to protect our rights and secure full compensation for the violation,” Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker said.

Because of Qatar’s limited airspace and its clash with the Arab bloc, the airline has had to rely on flying over Iran. That has meant longer costlier routes that require more fuel.

Last week, the U.N.’s highest court for disputes between countries sided with Qatar in its legal fight with the Gulf states that imposed an air blockade on Doha.

It confirmed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has jurisdiction in the airspace row, dismissing appeals by the four Arab states.

Writing by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Mark Potter and Barbara Lewis

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