DUBAI (Reuters) - Talks between the United Arab Emirates and Canada over flight rights have been “exhausted,” the Gulf state’s economy minister said on Saturday, ratcheting up their diplomatic confrontation over the issue.
Dubai’s Emirates airline has fiercely lobbied Ottawa to allow it to expand its three-day-a-week Toronto service. It also wants to fly to Calgary and Vancouver. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways also wants to increase its flights.
Ottawa has so far not agreed to the requests.
Tensions between the two countries escalated last month when the UAE ordered Canada to vacate a military base near Dubai which was used as a staging post for Canadian forces in Afghanistan.
“We have exhausted all terms of negotiations with Canada over the last six years,” Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri told reporters on Saturday.
“I’d like to challenge statements made by Canada that tens of thousands of jobs will be lost. This (more flights) will provide job opportunities,” Mansouri said.
He said each additional flight would contribute $60 million to the Canadian economy, without elaborating.
UAE’s efforts to gain more landing rights in Canada have been fiercely criticized by Air Canada, the country’s biggest carrier. It has accused Middle East airlines of wanting to steal connecting passengers that help make its routes profitable.
The Canadian Labor Congress has said that allowing a foreign carrier like Emirates to take some of the most profitable connection traffic could hurt Air Canada’s ability to maintain its domestic service, threatening jobs.
A UAE official has said that Canadian citizens would need visas to enter any of the seven emirates from January 2. Canada was previously one of more than 30 countries, mostly Western, that benefited from a visa waiver.
Reporting by Praveen Menon; writing by Firouz Sedarat; Editing by Ruth Pitchford