Canada Forced to Vacate UAE Base
Canada will be vacating a base, used as a hub for the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, in the United Arab Emirates.
According to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, the UAE made good of their thread to require Canada to leave the base as a result of failed negotiations of more flights and destinations to Canada. UAE presently has six flights into Toronto daily.
Landing rights were being sought for the Emirates airlines Etihad and Emerites. Air Canada objected, stating that these flights were only used as stop-overs to deliver passengers to other locations.
Peter MacKay said that Canada will vacate Camp Mirage and use other hubs in the area. It will be an adjustment for the Canadian Forces, but it will not affect the operations in Afghanistan. The Defence Minister stated that the Canadian Forces had back up contingency plans.
"We'll always act in Canada's best interests and one thing I know about the Canadian forces, they're very adaptable," MacKay said.
"They have alternative plans, they have contingency plans. With that in mind we're going through the various options that are before us right now.
"And we'll continue to do our mission here in Afghanistan... and we'll find other ways to support this mission through other hubs in the region," he added.
But Ambassador Al-Ghafli said with 27,000 Canadians living in the UAE, six flights per week do not service the economic needs of both countries.
"It is unfortunate that this process has been so protracted and frustrating," he said.
"The UAE entered negotiations in good faith on the understanding that a solution would be reached and that constructive ideas would be brought to the negotiating table. The fact that this has not come about undoubtedly affects the bilateral relationship."
The UAE is Canada's largest trade partner in the Middle East and North Africa with bilateral trade of over $1.5 billion.
A military source in Ottawa says the United Arab Emirates closed its airspace Monday to Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk in an escalating diplomatic row over aviation rights.
MacKay and Natynczyk were on their way back from a three-day visit to Afghanistan.
Just hours earlier, MacKay had confirmed that talks with the UAE had failed, and that Canada would abide by the country's wishes and vacate the base. MacKay made the comments while visiting Canadian soldiers in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.