Canada is using all its diplomatic resources to fend off an offer by Qatar to move the headquarters of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) from Montreal to Doha, sources have told Arabian Business.
The headquarters of the ICAO has been resident in the Canadian city of Montreal since 1946, but last week it was confirmed Qatar had offered to build the organisation a new headquarters in Doha when its 20 year lease comes up for renewal in 2016.
The move would be a diplomatic embarrassment for the Ottawa government and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has personally intervened to prevent the loss of the high profile UN organisation.
“Minister Baird has spoken to the Prime Minister of Qatar twice this week about the issue. Our government is working to keep ICAO in Montreal,” Joseph Lavoie, a spokesman for Baird, told Arabian Business.
“Minister Baird is personally ready, willing and keen to work with the Government of Quebec and the City of Montreal to keep ICAO in such a world-class city,” he added.
According to a report by the French-language La Presse newspaper, Qatar claimed Montreal was too far from Europe and Asia and suffered cold winters. The report also said Qatar claimed Canada made it hard for delegates to get visas and Canadian taxes were too high.
In a bid to seal the deal, Qatar is also said to have offered build new brand new headquarter for the ICAO and cover all the organisation's running costs.
Officials in Canada confirmed that Montreal had already fought off an offer from Singapore to host the headquarters and was close to signing a deal to see off the Qatari offer.
“ICAO's rightful place is in Montreal, and will make keeping ICAO in Montreal a priority,” a source close to Baird said.
“They've agreed to meet in the coming weeks to plot a strategy to highlight Montreal's advantages, and to engage business and other stakeholders.”
“Canada has a very good deal on the table. We have negotiated in good faith, and yes, ICAO Council approved the deal. In fact, the deal gave the Secretary-General the authority to sign it,” a source close to the negotiations told Arabian Business.
The Qatar offer will be considered by all of ICAO’s 191 member states at its next assembly meeting on September 24. A minimum of 60 percent of ICAO states will need to agree the proposal for the headquarters to be moved to Qatar from 2016.