We did not approach Qatar for HQ move - ICAO

Revealed: Details of offer made to UN aviation body by Gulf state.
NEWS, Aviation


By Shane McGinley

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has revealed details of the lucrative financial package Qatar has offered in a bid to persuade the UN body to move its 534 staff and headquarters from Montreal to Doha, but has denied it approached the Gulf state to submit its offer.

The headquarters of the ICAO has been resident in the Canadian city of Montreal since 1946, but last week it was confirmed Qatar had offered to build the organisation a new headquarters in Doha when its 20 year lease comes up for renewal in 2016.

An ICAO spokesperson told Arabian Business the organisation had not approached regarding a rival offer to that being negotiated with Canadian authorities and the Qatari offer was only being considered at this stage.

“Qatar was not invited to submit its offer. This was purely a Qatari initiative. ICAO has not entered into discussion with any states on the topic of its permanent seat, not even Qatar. For now we have simply received an offer and, for this offer to formally proceed, Qatar must prepare a working paper for the next assembly so that all relevant details may be duly considered by our member states,” the spokesperson said.

As part of the deal, Arabian Business has learned Qatar has offered a lucrative proposal in order to entice the ICAO to move from Montreal to Doha.

As part of the offer, Qatar said it would cover the construction of a new, state-of-the-art premises for ICAO and all expenses relating to its equipage and facilities, maintenance, utilities, insurance and security.

Doha has also offered to cover all expenses related to moving the current HQ and relevant staff to the new Qatar location, all expenses regarding contract or staff terminations and severance packages required as a result of the HQ move, as well as maximum health coverage and reduced educational fees for ICAO staff residing in Qatar.

The move would be a diplomatic embarrassment for the Ottawa government and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has personally intervened to prevent the loss of the high profile UN organisation.

“Minister Baird has spoken to the Prime Minister of Qatar twice this week about the issue. Our government is working to keep ICAO in Montreal,” Joseph Lavoie, a spokesman for Baird told Arabian Business.

“Minister Baird is personally ready, willing and keen to work with the Government of Quebec and the City of Montreal to keep ICAO in such a world-class city,” he added.

According to a report by the French-language La Presse newspaper, Qatar claimed Montreal was too far from Europe and Asia and suffered cold winters. The report also said Qatar claimed Canada made it hard for delegates to get visas and Canadian taxes were too high. In a bid to seal the deal, Qatar is also said to have offered build new brand new headquarter for the ICAO and cover all the organisation's running costs.

Montreal was originally selected as ICAO’s permanent seat in 1946 in light of its significant aerospace sector and geographic proximity to the UN General Assembly in New York, amongst other factors concerning its local infrastructure and general cultural qualities, the ICAO said.

Montreal today remains the world’s third most significant aerospace city, after Toulouse, France and Seattle in the USA, with several of the world’s major air transport organisations headquartered here (IATA, ACI, IFALPA, to name a few) and over 80 aerospace companies located either on the island of Montreal or within its immediate surrounding regions, it added.

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