Italy issues complaint after UAE denies landing permission

Rome summons Emirati ambassador after UAE denies Italian plane landing permission
2 min read
09 June, 2021
The plane was taking journalists and military officers to a ceremony for the withdrawal of Italy's troops from Afghanistan, where they were stationed as part of a NATO mission. 
Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio's office released a statement summoning the UAE's ambassador to Rome [Getty]

An Italian military plane was refused landing permission by the United Arab Emirates as it headed to Afghanistan on Tuesday, triggering a formal complaint from Rome to Abu Dhabi.

The plane was taking journalists and military officers to a ceremony for the withdrawal of Italy's troops from Afghanistan, where they were stationed as part of a NATO mission. 

Due to the refusal, the aircraft was forced to make an unplanned stop in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and then continued its journey via a longer route, the AGI news agency reported. 

The Italian foreign ministry said in a statement it had summoned the UAE ambassador to Rome, Omar Obaid Al-Shamsi, in protest.

The ministry's top civil servant "conveyed to the ambassador his surprise and strong disappointment for a gesture that is hard to understand", the statement said.

The ANSA news agency and other Italian media linked the snub to Italy's decision earlier this year to make permanent a freeze in arms sales to UAE due to the country's involvement in the war in Yemen.

The ceremony for the Italian military pullout in the western Afghan city of Herat still went ahead, but was delayed to allow for the late arrival of the plane from Rome, Italian media reported.

Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini and top Italian military commanders, who travelled on another plane that followed a different route, were present.

Italy had almost 900 troops as part of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, according to a NATO factsheet dating from February, the third largest contributor at that time after the United States and Germany.

The US and allied forces are in the final stages of pulling out their remaining troops from Afghanistan, ending Washington's longest-ever war, but heralding an uncertain future for a nation in the tightening grip of Taliban militants.