Qatar denies intercepting Emirati civilian aircraft

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FILE - In this Wednesday, March 22, 2017 file photo, an Emirates plane taxis to a gate at Dubai International Airport at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Long-haul carrier Emirates says it is starting new screening procedures for U.S.-bound passengers following it receiving "new security guidelines" from American authorities. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck, File)

DOHA: Qatar has denied as “completely false” claims by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that its fighter jets intercepted two Emirati passenger planes.
The allegations on Monday come amid rising tensions in the Gulf as a blockade imposed against Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain entered its eighth month.
They also follow Qatar filing two complaints at the United Nations over alleged violations of its airspace by Emirati military aircraft.
The UAE’s state-run news agency WAM carried the first report of interception at mid day on Monday.
Citing the country’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), the agency said Qatari fighter planes intercepted a Bahrain-bound Emirati civilian aircraft.
The GCAA condemned the alleged Qatari action as “a flagrant and serious threat to the safety of civil aviation and a clear violation of international law”, the WAM report said.
Later in the day, WAM said a second passenger plane en route to Bahrain was also intercepted by Qatari fighter jets. It did not offer additional details of the encounters and did not name the carriers involved.
Qatar’s foreign ministry dismissed the claim and said it would release a detailed statement later.
US Central Command, which is based at the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, also did not have any report about incidents involving a commercial aircraft in the region, the Associated Press news agency said.
Describing the US Command as an “independent” and “credible” source, Ibrahim Fraihat, a political analyst at the Doha Institute, told Al Jazeera that the US military’s comment should be taken seriously.
The command “is friends of both parties and has not taken sides so far”, he said. “It also has strong military presence in the region and watching the air space nonstop.”
The latest developments were “dangerous”, Fraihat added, warning that they could escalate tensions in the Gulf.

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