Travel ban: Diplomatic row with UAE will be resolved soon – FG

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The federal government says there are ongoing talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to resolve the fresh diplomatic row.

Hadi Sirika, minister of aviation and acting chairman of the presidential steering committee (PSC) on COVID-19, said this at a briefing on Monday in Abuja.

On Monday, the UAE reportedly banned foreign airlines from airlifting Nigerian passengers into the country.

To this effect, Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and other airlines connecting transit flights from their hubs into Dubai refused to board Nigerians.

The UAE claimed that the ban is due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

This development might not be unconnected with the recent diplomatic rift between Nigeria and UAE.

Air Peace had requested a slot of three weekly flights from Nigeria to Sharjah Airport in UAE, but only one was granted.

The UAE’s GCAA blamed the airline for pulling out of Sharjah Airport and “so should not expect to retain its flight frequency there” — a claim Air Peace has denied.

In retaliation to the UAE’s treatment of Air Peace, the federal government dropped Emirate’s slots from 21 to just one, causing Emirates to pull out of the Nigerian route indefinitely.

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Speaking at the briefing, Sirika said there are “huge signs” that the ongoing issues will be resolved soon.

“We have followed the normal diplomatic routes to continue to engage UAE. There are huge signs that we are getting to resolve this matter soon,” he said.

“We have a responsibility as a government to take certain decisions on behalf of people that are in accordance with the law and that will ensure that our citizens are treated fairly and equally and also enjoy mutual relationships.”

He insisted that the decision to reduce the number of frequencies of Emirates Airlines to Lagos and Abuja was in line with established ICAO protocols and the spirit of the BASA signed with the UAE.

“The PSC also evaluated the developments on the relationship between Nigeria and the UAE and we are pleased to inform you that the position of the Federal Government is in line with established International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO Protocols and the spirit of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, signed with the UAE,” he added.

‘’Our sovereignty remains paramount, and mutual respects shall be our guiding principle in as much as it should be in the best interest of Nigeria.

“The PSC will at its next regular briefing on Monday, December 20, brief you fully on developments.”

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