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Canada, UAE call it quits over airline spat

Diplomatic relations hit 'rough patch', admits Ottawa's John Baird.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

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Canada and the UAE have put a row over landing rights for the Gulf state’s national airlines behind them, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday.

The two countries have held a series of talks in the wake of a “rough patch” sparked by Canada's refusal to offer more landing slots to Emirates and Etihad Airways.

"Last year, there were some profound disagreements between Canada and the United Arab Emirates," Baird told Canadian media in a conference call after meeting with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

“I'm pleased to say I've had two or three bilateral but substantive discussions about Canada-UAE relations with my counterpart Sheikh Abdullah.”

The talks have been “good, positive, warm,” he said.

Relations between the oil-rich UAE and Ottawa deteriorated rapidly following the aviation row, after the Gulf state retaliated with the closure of Camp Mirage, a secret military base located outside Dubai and used to supply Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

In December, the UAE Embassy announced Canadian citizens would no longer receive free tourist visas and would instead pay up to $1,000 Canadian dollars to enter the country

The move led to a decline in the number of Canadian firms attending trade shows in the Gulf state, the head of the Canadian Business Council of Abu Dhabi Karl Tabbakh said in October.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s handling of the political row divided opposition MPs with foreign affairs spokesman Bob Rae accusing him of “bumbling” and of risking a $2bn bilateral trade relationship.

Baird on Tuesday suggested lessons had been learned over the diplomatic spat.

“I think relations are certainly on an upward trajectory,” he told media. “I think one of the things I've learned very quickly as minister of foreign affairs is personal relationship and communication is very important."

Tightening business ties between the UAE and Canada had hinted that the frosty standoff between the countries was softening.

Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management last month launched a $1bn real estate fund with state-controlled Investment Corporation of Dubai, to invest in distressed assets in the Gulf emirate.

“My perception is that, from speaking to our members, the Canadian business people are making the difference between the business issues and the diplomatic issues,” Tabbakh said.


 

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