UAE-Canada relations 'better' after airline spat

Senior officials says relationship 'going in right direction' after nuclear co-op deal
UAE-Canada relations 'better' after airline spat
By Andy Sambidge
Tue 06 Mar 2012 06:08 PM

Relations between Canada and the UAE are back on track following a spat over airline landing rights two years ago, a senior Canadian government official has said.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said relations were "going in the right direction" after talks with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan during which a nuclear co-operation deal between the two countries was agreed.

Baird said in comments published by the Toronto Sun: "Canada and the UAE have had some challenging times in the past, many people said the relationship was going in the wrong direction," adding relations were now "better than they've been and they're going in the right direction".

Relations between the oil-rich UAE and Canada deteriorated rapidly after Canada’s transport agency refused to give Gulf carriers Etihad and Emirates new landing rights.

The Gulf state retaliated with the closure of Camp Mirage, a secret military base located outside Dubai and used to supply Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Al Nahyan, in Ottawa for a bilateral meeting with Baird, hinted the UAE was still interested in acquiring more landing rights in Canada.

"(The) UAE is a main hub for trade in our region when it comes to the Gulf, the subcontinent, central Asia, east Africa...So I think having more trade between the UAE and Canada, and using the UAE as a hub, is beneficial for both countries," the paper quoted him as saying.

Relations began to thaw after Canada struck a deal last year to set up a new staging base in nearby Kuwait, and Baird visited the UAE last November.

In November, the head of the Canadian Business Council of Abu Dhabi said tightening business ties between the UAE and Canada may smooth the path for the Gulf state to press its case for additional landing rights for its airlines.

Deals such as the launch of a $1bn real estate fund by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management and state-controlled Investment Corporation of Dubai hint that the diplomatic spat between the two countries may be softening, said Karl Tabbakh.

“My perception is that, from speaking to our members, the Canadian business people are making the difference between the business issues and the diplomatic issues,” he said.

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