A bid by Qatar to relocate the UN’s civil aviation agency from Montreal, Canada, to the emirate has angered Canada, where politicians from all sides vowed on Friday to band together to fight the proposed move.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which sets international civil aviation standards, has been in Montreal since its founding in 1946. Qatar presented the ICAO with an unsolicited offer last month to serve as the new permanent seat of the organization, beginning in 2016.
The proposal included construction of new premises, paying to move materials and staffers, and paying for all expenses resulting from staff terminations and severance packages, the UN agency said. Qatar did not tell Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird about the bid when he visited the Gulf nation last month.
“They didn’t do us the courtesy of raising this with us directly when the minister was in Qatar last month,” Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Rick Roth said.
He said that the way Qatar has acted “demonstrates why they are not a suitable host for a United Nations organization.”
Baird reiterated with a jab about the Gulf country’s climate.
“I, for one, would much rather have four seasons, rather than a crushing humid temperature of more than 40oC 12 months a year,” he said, speaking in French during a news conference in Montreal, where Baird presented an unusually united front with a minister from Quebec’s separatist provincial government.
The prospect of losing the UN agency from Montreal is so alarming that Quebec Minister of International Affairs Jean-Francois Lisee said Qatar’s bid to take the ICAO may have prompted “one of the greatest political reunions in the history of Quebec and Canada.”
Lisee said Qatar has noted Montreal’s cold winters as a reason to move the ICAO.
“So we have counter-arguments and we will not be shy about the fact that winter is something that you can enjoy and it doesn’t last all year,” Lisee said. “And when you look at the heat in Doha all year, if you want to talk weather, we’ll talk weather.”
Qatar, one of the world’s richest countries, with vast oil and gas reserves, has been pushing to become a major global player in the past few years. It shocked the sporting world by beating out the US and others to host the soccer World Cup in 2022 and is looking to host the 2020 summer Olympic Games. It also has taken a role in Middle East politics, providing weapons and funding to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, promoting peace in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region and pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.