Qatar to comply with new U.S. airline security measures: minister

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 30, 2017 3:39 PM

By Allison Lampert

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Qatar will comply with enhanced security measures for flights to the United States designed to prevent expanding an in-cabin ban on laptops, the country's minister of transport said on Friday.

The measures, which European and U.S. officials said on Wednesday would begin taking effect within three weeks, could require additional time to screen passengers and personal electronic devices for possible explosives.

"We will respect it," the minister, Jassim Saif Al Sulaiti, said in an interview in Montreal, where he is meeting officials of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). He did not provide specific details.

Al Sulaiti repeated Qatar's request for the ICAO to intervene over Gulf neighbors closing their airspace to state-owned Qatar Airways flights in early June. Qatar has also asked for the ICAO to open international airspace over Gulf waters currently managed by the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, forcing Qatar Airways to fly longer, more expensive routes over Iran. The four countries accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and have made various demands on Doha. Qatar denies the allegations.

On Friday, top ICAO officials will brief the agency's governing council on "operational and technical issues affecting the safety and efficiency of air traffic in the Middle East region," said agency spokesman William Raillant-Clark by email.

The briefing, which is closed to the public and media, follows discussions with Qatar and its neighboring countries, Raillant-Clark said.

No decision is expected at the briefing.

Representatives of the UAE and Saudi Arabia could not be reached for comment on Friday.

ICAO's 36-state governing council can act to settle the overflights issue presented by Qatar, but such interventions are rare and time-consuming because the specialized United Nations agency usually negotiates disputes diplomatically through consensus.

ICAO cannot impose rules on states, but regulators from its 191-member countries almost always adopt and enforce its international aviation standards.

(Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal; additional reporting by Katie Paul in Riyadh and Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; editing by Grant McCool)