Arab Countries go to ICAO for resolution of AT dispute- judgment unlikely

ME airspace, ICAO seal and map
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As noted below, ICAO is an important UN air safety organization. Through consensus deliberations, its Members develop standards which should be followed by all of the participating countries. Its USOAP process audits all Member Civil Aviation Authorities, identifies shortcomings and ENCOURAGES them to improve their standards/organization/competence. Another major function is to provide technical and financial assistance to countries which struggle to meet the ICAO safety goals. But its primary role is to facilitate global aviation operational and AT/navigation standards.

Here are three recent articles (there are many more online) about a disagreement between two ICAO members about airspace management in the Gulf. The theme is that these countries appear to expect that their conflict will be resolved by the UN organization.

Qatar and UAE

  1. UAE files ICAO complaint over Qatari flight ‘interceptions’

  2. Qatari aggression against UAE passenger aircraft recognised [sic] by UN world aviation body

  3. Qatar refutes UAE claims at ICAO panel meeting

ME flight paths

 A search of the ICAO website reveals that no action was taken by the Council. So, both sides claim (inferred) of victory are premature. The adjudicatory powers of the Montreal body are ceremonial at best.

One observer predicted that the most concrete outcome would be a regional meeting for Gulf civil aviation and air traffic authorities to improve communication. An insider told the article’s author, “Sometimes if you’re having a feud with your neighbor you need someone to facilitate the conversation,” the source said.

The 1983 shooting down by Soviet jetfighters probably[1] qualifies as the most egregious violation of the Chicago Convention.  Though it sponsored an investigation of the facts, the weight of the report was somewhat limited because ICAO could not compel, for example, Russia to deliver the relevant ATC tapes. However, the evidence included in the analysis (US satellite tracking) were adequate to support resolution condemning the Soviet Union for the attack.

The response more congruent with the ICAO’s charter, the body agreed to a unanimous (very rare in such a contentious debate) amendment in May 1984 to the ICAO’s governing documents refining what should be the use of force against civilian airliners.

Such a precedent, the facts of which are far more compelling, should cause the disputants not to expect resolution from the UN Organization.

ICAO’s primary powers and mission

ICAO seal

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).

ICAO works with the Convention’s 192 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector. These SARPs and policies are used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms, which in turn permits more than 100,000 daily flights in aviation’s global network to operate safely and reliably in every region of the world.

In addition to its core work resolving consensus-driven international SARPs and policies among its Member States and industry, and among many other priorities and programmes, ICAO also coordinates assistance and capacity building for States in support of numerous aviation development objectives; produces global plans to coordinate multilateral strategic progress for safety and air navigation; monitors and reports on numerous air transport sector performance metrics; and audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.


[1] Incident of February 21, 1973, when Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 was shot down by Israeli F-4 jets over the Sinai Peninsula.


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