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Cablegate: Uae-Iranian Civil Aviation Agreement More Pomp Than

VZCZCXRO9467
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDIR RUEHKUK
DE RUEHAD #1417 3530656
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180656Z DEC 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1888
INFO RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 8080
RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ABU DHABI 001417

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA/ARP AND EEB/TRA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON EFIN PGOV IR AE
SUBJECT: UAE-IRANIAN CIVIL AVIATION AGREEMENT MORE POMP THAN
CIRCUMSTANCE

1. (U) On December 10, the official state news agency WAM announced
that the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) signed a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Civil Aviation
Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran to expand air passenger
links between the two countries. GCAA Director General Saif
Mohammed al Suwaidi told the local press that the agreement, which
will give UAE carriers 50 percent more access to Iranian airports,
was signed on December 6 in Tehran. Under the deal, a total of 215
flights could be operated by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, Dubai-based
Emirates and Fly Dubai, Sharjah-based Air Arabia and Ras al
Khaimah's RAK Airways. Al Suwaidi said the UAE would be looking to
conclude similar agreements with other countries in the region.

2. (SBU) The GCAA Director of Aviation Safety and Security told FAA
Rep on December 11 that the MOU was signed for purely commercial
reasons. However, Etihad VP for Operations told EconOff that the
airline was having difficulty filling its single daily flight to
Tehran that started in 2007 and didn't anticipate adding capacity.
Similarly, sources at Emirates have told EmbOffs that the airline is
having trouble filling existing flights.

3. (SBU) Comment: In tough economic times, there is little
indication that passenger demand is driving this agreement,
although, the MOU benefits UAE carriers in the long run. More
likely, the agreement represents an easy way to maintain cordial
relations with the UAE's behemoth neighbor while enhancing
commercial opportunities in a cornerstone industry. It may also
reflect part of a recent push by the Iranian Cultural Heritage and
Tourism Ministry to boost Iran's tourism from the region. A more
detailed overview of the broader UAE-Iranian relationship will be
reported septel. End Comment.
OLSON

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