Gulf neighbours sign deal for expanded Qatar airspace zone

Gulf neighbours sign deal for expanded Qatar airspace zone
2 min read
01 September, 2022
From 8 September, Qatar's skies will no longer be mostly controlled by Bahrain.
The Doha FIR will take up space currently controlled by Bahrain [Getty]

Qatar on Wednesday signed final agreements with its Gulf neighbours needed to activate the country's expanded airspace zone, the Qatari transport ministry has said.

Qatar's civil aviation authority signed the operational agreements for the Doha FIR (Flight Information Region) with officials from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Having signed a similar deal with Iran, the other country with airspace neighbouring the FIR, in April, "all the stakeholders for the activation for the Doha FIR's operational processes... are now complete", the transport ministry said in a statement.

The zone will take effect on 8 September, the ministry said.

Until now, Qatar's skies - some of the busiest in the world - had mostly been controlled by its smaller neighbour, Bahrain.

The Doha FIR will access approximately half of that space, as well as smaller sections of Emirati and Iranian airspace.

The area was approved by the International Civil Authority Organisation (ICAO), the UN's aviation agency in March that counts Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE among its member states.

The Doha FIR had been discussed by the ICAO for years prior to the agreement - but there was opposition from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who at the time were at odds with Qatar.

In 2017, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE severed ties with and blockaded Qatar, accusing it of links to Islamist groups and of being too close to Iran, allegations Doha strongly denied.

They also sealed their airspace to Qatari flights, shuttered the state's only land border with Saudi Arabia, and expelled Qatari citizens.

The embargo ended in January 2021, following an agreement signed at the landmark GCC summit in Al-Ula.

Qatar has previously said it had intended to establish the FIR before the Gulf crisis.

Qatari Transport Minister Jassim Saif Ahmed Al-Sulaiti said Qatar's air navigation systems were at the ready and that it could now add new air routes.

The FIR comes as Qatar readies itself for the football World Cup later this year, with more than a million visitors to the country expected.