Tunisia, Emirates airline in dispute over air service
Flights temporarily suspended
Tunisian authorities say their decision to suspend all Emirates airline flights into the country “cannot be described as a diplomatic crisis” between the North African country and the United Arab Emirates.
A tit-for-tat dispute began on Friday when Emirates prohibited female Tunisian passengers from being able to board flights to the UAE – without giving a reason.
Speaking Tuesday, Tunisian presidential spokeswoman Saida Garrach said the UAE had “voiced fear that an attack will probably be committed by Tunisian women or women with Tunisian passports.”
The travel ban triggered confusion and anger at the Tunis airport and on media.
In response, the Tunisian transport ministry on Monday suspended all Emirates flights into Tunis. Emirates employees were first informed of the news the night before in an internal company email that read: “Any passengers holding TUN as final destination are not to be accepted for travel at point of origin.”
Emirates announced on Twitter that the Dubai-Tunis service had been stopped “based on instructions by the Tunisian authorities.”
The Tunisian transport ministry has said the suspension would remain in effect until the airline “finds a suitable solution to operate its flights in accordance with laws and international agreements.”
Tunisian state media reported that a task force had been set up in Tunisia’s consulate in Dubai and the UAE’s Northern Emirates to monitor the situation of Tunisian expatriates seeking to depart from Dubai airport.
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, had first suggested on Sunday that the airline’s initial decision to temporarily ban female passengers from boarding Emirates flights was a security measure.
He wrote on Twitter that “security information” had led to “limited and circumstantial measures” that were communicated to the Tunisian government.
“We respect Tunisian women, value their pioneering experience and consider them a safety valve,” Gargash wrote. “Together, let’s avoid attempts of misinterpretation.”
CNN’s Mohammed Tawfeeq and Karen Smith contributed to this report.