Clear breach: Qatar Airways seeks USD 5 billion from UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt over airspace ban

TD Editor

Qatar Airways Group, owner and operator of Qatar Airways, the flag carrier of Qatar, has launched four international investment arbitrations against the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Since 2017, the four countries have imposed an illegal air, sea and land blockade against Qatar.

The arbitrations seek redress for the blockading states’ actions to remove the airline from their markets and to forbid the airline from flying over their airspace. Qatar Airways is seeking a total of at least USD 5 billion from the blockading states as compensation for their unlawful actions.

For three decades, the carrier made substantial investments in the four blockading countries in order to serve hundreds of thousands of passengers and to transport tens of thousands of tons of cargo to and from each of these countries annually.

Starting on 5 June 2017, without prior warning, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt took collective measures targeting Qatar Airways and its operations. These measures specifically targeted Qatar Airways, with the objective of shuttering Qatar Airways’ local operations, destroying the value of the airline’s investments and causing widespread damage to Qatar Airways’ global network of operations. In particular, these measures included, but were not limited to, closing their irspace and airports to Qatar Airways’ aircraft and revoking its licenses and permits to operate in the blockading states. These measures persist to date and continue to disrupt its global operations.

Qatar Airways is seeking full compensation for these damages in four investment arbitrations, brought under three separate treaties, namely: the OIC Investment Agreement; the Arab Investment Agreement; and the bilateral investment treaty between Qatar and Egypt. The notices of arbitration make clear that by imposing the measures against the carrier, the blockading states have violated their obligations under the agreements, including by expropriating and failing to adequately protect and secure Qatar Airways’ investments, discriminating against the airline, and failing to provide fair and equitable treatment to the airline and its investments.

Commenting on the launch of the investment arbitrations, Akbar Al Baker, group CEO of Qatar Airways, said: “The decision by the blockading states to prevent us from operating in their countries and flying over their airspace is a clear breach of civil aviation conventions and several binding agreements they are signatories to. 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 violations.”

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