The United Arab Emirates lobbied against Canada's bid for a U.N. Security Council seat in the latest blow to relations that soured after disputes over airline routes, a UAE official said Thursday.
The Gulf country's opposition followed harsh complaints about Canada's refusal to open more flights for the fast-growing carriers Emirates and Etihad. The government in Abu Dhabi is also forcing Canada to leave a military base that is used to supply Canadian forces in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, Canada pulled out of the race for one of the non-permanent Security Council seats after falling behind rivals in the first rounds of voting. The defeat was seen as a significant setback for a G-7 economic power.
The UAE official said the opposition was based on Canada's "protectionist" trade policies and perceptions that Ottawa is weak on supporting Arab causes in the region, including efforts to ease the Israeli restrictions on Palestinians in Gaza.
It's unclear how much the UAE could have swayed U.N. sentiments against Canada, but the country carries influence beyond its small size because of extensive international business ties.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of standing government rules on behind-the-scenes briefings.
The UAE has pushed hard to expand nonstop flights to Canada to serve major Indian and Pakistani markets, which have significant family and business ties to North America. Dubai-based Emirates and Etihad in Abu Dhabi each run three flights a week to Canada and are aggressively seeking to expand long-haul flights.
But Air Canada argues there is no need for more flights from the UAE and says it can handle the south Asian traffic through alliances with European airlines.
On Monday, the failure to hammer out an airline deal also apparently unraveled a key military pact.
The UAE said it would not extend an agreement for Canada to use a military base as a logistics and supply point for its 2,900 troops in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
The military facility, known as Camp Mirage, is widely believed to be located at al-Minhad Air Base outside Dubai, although neither the Emirates nor Canada have definitively acknowledged the location of any military site to aid forces in Afghanistan.
Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said he was looking into "other hubs in the region" to support the forces in Afghanistan. Canada has said its mission in Afghanistan will end next year.
At the United Nations, Canada withdrew its bid for a Security Council seat on Tuesday after falling behind rivals Germany and Portugal for two Western bloc seats.
Ten of the Security Council's 15 seats are filled by regional groups for two-year stretches. The other five seats are occupied by the council's veto-wielding permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.
Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, said he spoke to his UAE counterpart this week and that the two "agreed that the bilateral relationship should remain strong and not be put at risk."
"This relationship, which is beneficial to both countries, includes substantive cooperation across commercial, political, economic, defense, and regional security matters," Loubier said in emailed statement.
Loubier said Canada conducted a principled campaign for the U.N. seat and that Canada takes principled positions on foreign policy, whether they are popular or not. She also stressed Canada makes decisions that are in its best interest.
Associated Press Writer Robert Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.