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article imageDispute escalates, UAE turns away plane with Canadian officials

By Lynn Curwin     Oct 11, 2010 in Politics
The United Arab Emirates closed its airspace to a plane carrying Canadian government and military officials on Monday, expressing their unhappiness with the country’s stand on commercial landing rights.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn and Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Walt Natynczyk were on board the plane, which was heading from Afghanistan to Europe..
Earlier in the day, MacKay confirmed that Canada would therefore be vacating the Camp Mirage military base near Dubai.
"There have been discussions going on between the minister of foreign affairs and his counterpart. These discussions have been going on for some time," CTV News quoted MacKay as saying
"At this point we will abide by the wishes of the Emirates, and... we will be leaving the base."
The UAE wanted more landing rights in Canada for its national carriers, Emirates and Etihad, and threatened to force Canada to leave Camp Mirage if Ottawa did not approve an increase.
The airlines have six flights a week to Toronto, carrying passengers from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but say that with 27,000 Canadians living in the UAE, there is a need for more service.
Air Canada had objected to expanding the landing rights of UAE carriers, arguing that there is not enough traffic to warrant more flights.
Trade between Canada and the UAE is worth $1.5 billion annually.
Vacating the base will mean that a new supply route to Afghanistan is needed, and Camp Mirage was expected to play an important role in the withdrawal of Canadian troops from that country in 2011.
MacKay says the Canadian Forces can make new arrangements before then.
"We'll always act in Canada's best interests and one thing I know about the Canadian forces, they're very adaptable,"CTV News quoted him as saying.
"They have alternative plans, they have contingency plans. With that in mind we're going through the various options that are before us right now.”
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