The forced grounding of a Ryanair passenger plane in Minsk which has drawn international outrage will be investigated by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
An initial demand for investigation into the incident was demanded by the United States and several allies which prompted the ICAO’s 36-nation governing council to act. The incident was described as “a grave violation of international law” by British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
Irish Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that an interim report could be provided by ICAO by June 25. Its council had expressed its “strong concern” about the incident, ICAO said in a statement after the meeting.
The main mandate for the probe will be find out facts about whether the incident had caused a breach in the international aviation rules. There is little scope for ICAO to punish member states except for suspension of their voting rights.
The Irish airliner was diverted to Minsk and a dissident Belarusian journalist was detained by Belarus on Sunday and the government used a fighter and a false bomb alert for the forced diversion. The order to land to the plane was given when it was almost in Lithuanian air space while traveling from Athens to Vilnius.
“These unacceptable actions were an attack on European aviation security and put in danger the lives of the passengers and crew as they traveled between two EU capitals,” said Ryan.
While rejecting charges that it had acted illegally, Minsk, now faced with calls for sanctions, said that the Western governments were using the episode to wage “hybrid war” against it.
The council urged ICAO members to cooperate with the probe.
“They could not just close their eyes,” said an individual familiar with the meeting and added that safety had been a key topic. According to reports quoting sources with information about the meeting, Russia and China had both declined to support an investigation,
What happened in Minsk was not an isolated incident, said Russia which also accused the West of hypocrisy and recalled reports about how the United States had forced a landing of a jet in Austria in 2013 as the US thought the jet to be carrying fugitive Edward Snowden.
Reports said that more time for taking action was asked for by China.
There were no comments publicly on the issue from Russian and Chinese diplomats.
The safety and security standards of the Montreal-based ICAO – which us approved by its 192 member states, is well respected globally.
“We wish to remind those who demanded we take punitive action against that country that our agency was never assigned that type of role or capability,” ICAO tweeted on Wednesday.
According to reports, Belarus said at the meeting that the plane was not forced to land by its authorities and the pilot could have landed in Lithuania.
Each country has sovereignty over its own air space according to the Chicago Convention. That treaty however also prohibits use of any civil aviation that could pose a endanger to safety.
(Adapted from CGTN.com)