A day after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) accused Qatari fighter jets of flying dangerously close to its civilian aircraft while in Bahraini airspace, the UAE said on March 27, 2018, it will not change its civilian flight paths. But tensions between the Gulf neighbors continue to rise as on March 28, 2018, Qatar accused a Bahraini fighter jet of violating its airspace.

On March 26, 2018, the UAE accused Qatar of two of its fighter jets flying dangerously close to two civilian aircraft from the UAE while they were in Bahraini managed airspace. The UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) called the incident a “provocative action”.

The GCAA said this follows two similar events that had already been reported by the UAE to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized aviation agency of the United Nations (UN).

Tensions between the Gulf neighbors are beginning to rise again with the UAE complaint to the United Nations watchdog regarding Qatar‘s war planes. On January 15, 2018 the UAE officials declared that Qatari fighter jets allegedly intercepted two Emirati civilian airplanes en route to Bahrain. 

Despite the recent incident, the chairman of the GCAA, Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri, told Reuters they had no plans to make any changes to civilian air routes “at the present time”.

UAE, Bahrain file complaints against Qatar

In June 2017, the UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt, imposed sanctions on Qatar, accusing it of supporting Islamist terrorists. Qatar asked the ICAO to intervene after its Gulf neighbors announced a land, sea and airspace blockade on the country as part of the sanctions.

Four Arab countries – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain – have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and announced a land, sea and airspace blockade over the terrorism support claims. Saudi Arabia has also called off Qatari troops from the ongoing war in Yemen.

On March 26, 2018, Bahrain’s civil aviation authority confirmed the incident involving two Qatari fighter jets took place, saying a UAE Airbus A320 en route from Fujairah, the UAE, to Rome, Italy, was forced to a higher altitude after the Qatari jets flew dangerously close to the aircraft.

In a statement, the Bahraini agency said the jets entered airspace managed by Bahrain without authorization. The agency also said this was the second such incident to take place on the same day, Reuters reported earlier.

On March 27, 2018, the UAE’s GCAA Assistant Director General Ismaeil Mohammed al-Blooshi clarified that the latest incidents involved a UAE-registered civilian aircraft - a large aircraft owned by a UAE organization and a helicopter.

Blooshi claimed the jets came as close as 800 meters (2,625 feet) horizontally and 213 meters (699 feet) vertically to the UAE aircraft, Reuters reports. Both the UAE and Bahrain say that complaints would be lodged with the ICAO.

It is not yet clear if the two incidents involving Qatari warplanes occurred at the same time or not. Neither the airline involved, nor the identity of the owners of the aircraft have been specified by the UAE and Bahrain.

Qatar accuses UAE, files complaint against Bahrain

Qatar’s civil aviation authority has denied the accusations and, in turn, accused the UAE of violations of Qatari airspace. Since then, on March 28, 2018, Qatar accused a Bahraini fighter jet of violating its airspace.

Qataris have reported the violation to the UN Security Council, claiming that the incident, which they called a “serious breach that constitutes a serious and flagrant violation of international law”, took place on March 25, 2018, Reuters reports. However, they did not provide any details about the latest incident either.