Canada is preparing to remove troops based in the United Arab Emirates after a dispute between the countries over landing rights for commercial flights.
“Canadian Forces are planning contingencies for the relocation of CF military assets presently located at Camp Mirage,” Alain Cacchione, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said in response to e-mailed questions today, without giving a reason.
Camp Mirage, a military logistics camp near Dubai, serves as a jump-off point for Canadian forces in Afghanistan. Canada currently has a 2,800-soldier force serving in Afghanistan. The government aims to end its operations in the country next year.
The U.A.E. said it is “disappointed” by Canada’s refusal to grant additional landing rights to U.A.E. airlines, the Gulf state’s official WAM news agency reported on Oct. 10, citing the country’s ambassador to Canada, Mohammed Abdullah al-Ghafli. He called the negotiations “protracted and frustrating.”
U.A.E. carriers including Emirates have been seeking dozens of new landing slots in Canada, contending that the six weekly flights currently allowed are not enough to cover demand. Transport Canada, the government agency that oversees the airline industry, and Air Canada opposed granting more slots on concerns that U.A.E. carriers may eat into Air Canada’s traffic to cities such as Frankfurt.
Failure by Canadian authorities to come to an agreement with the U.A.E. “undoubtedly affects the bilateral relationship,” al-Ghafli’s statement said.
Emirates Chief Executive Officer Tim Clark said today his airline “regrets these developments but respects the positions taken by both the U.A.E. and Canadian governments,” in an e-mailed response to questions. “We sincerely hope there will be an amicable resolution in the future,” he added.
A U.A.E. government spokesman declined to comment about the relocation of Canadian forces or the aviation dispute. No one at the U.A.E.’s General Civil Aviation Authority was available for comment.
“The U.A.E. is becoming more confident, more assertive, and more aware of its own power and influence in the region and in the world,” said Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle East politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “They have the resources and the means to exercise their power because power isn’t just about military power anymore.”
The U.A.E. is the largest trade partner with Canada in the Middle East and North Africa, with more than $1.5 billion of business in 2008, according to U.A.E. government figures. As many as 27,000 Canadians live in the U.A.E. today.
Last week, Waterloo, Canada-based Research In Motion Ltd. averted a ban on its BlackBerry smartphone in the U.A.E., after the country’s phone regulator said the company’s messaging services now comply with local security regulations.
“The message here is if they want to do business with the U.A.E., it’s going to be on the U.A.E.’s terms,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “This is a trend we’re seeing in both their regional and extra-regional policies.”