Canada minister backs UAE

The UAE should have been granted more routes for its national carriers in exchange for use of a military base, said Canada defence minister on Thursday.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sun 21 Nov 2010, 12:50 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:04 PM

The commercial spat-turned diplomatic row has set back relations between the two countries 10 years, Defence Minister Peter MacKay also said, according to Astral Radio parliamentary bureau chief Daniel Proussalidis, who blogged about the private conversation he said he witnessed on Newstalk 1010’s website.

Canada was forced last month to close its Camp Mirage military base in Dubai after refusing to grant the UAE’s two national carriers, Emirates airline and Etihad Airways, more landing rights. The base was part of a key supply route to Afghanistan. According to Proussalidis, MacKay approached Canada’s finance minister and a senator mingling with reporters outside parliament after a fire alarm on Wednesday.

“It was all small talk until Defence Minister Peter MacKay walked up and joined the conversation wearing a red ‘Fly Emirates’ baseball cap on his head and a grin on his face,” Proussalidis wrote.

“MacKay joked that he wore the cap for (former Transport Minister John) Baird.” Baird had reportedly lobbied against granting UAE carriers extra landing rights in Canada.

“Canada could have continued to use a military base in the UAE for free... if only it had granted those slots,” MacKay told Conservative Senator Michael Meighen, before suggesting it would take 10 years to repair the relationship with the UAE, according to Proussalidis.

The minister’s spokesman was not immediately available to comment. But MacKay told public broadcaster CBC: “My view is that we obviously have some work to do in repairing the relationship with the United Arab Emirates.”

About 27,000 Canadians live in the UAE, one of Canada’s biggest economic partners in the Middle East, with bilateral trade valued at about $1.5 billion per year, according to UAE officials.

The stand-off grew as the UAE Embassy in Ottawa also announced recently that Canadian passport holders will have to obtain visas prior to entering the UAE from January 2, 2011.

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