UAE must make ‘direct’ statement on transits

THE Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) has taken a wait-and-see stance on assurances to Jewish and Israeli Qantas travellers about its planned new route to London through Dubai.

As reported in The AJN last week, in a recent letter to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), Foreign Minister Bob Carr told the Jewish national roof body that the Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi had received a response to questions it asked the UAE. According to Carr, this response “confirmed that foreign visitors with Israeli passport stamps may enter the country”.

The Department of Foreign Affairs took the cue and deleted a warning from its Smart Traveller website about Israeli-stamped passports, although the Foreign Minister said conditions would be monitored to make sure the UAE delivered on its claimed change of policy.

The letter from Carr came in response to concerns over the implications of the Qantas-Emirates deal. It was feared travellers with Israeli stamps in their passports might encounter transit problems as the UAE does not recognise Israel. And while Israeli passport holders are allowed to transit, they are not allowed to leave Dubai airport.

As well as the letter from Carr, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce met with ECAJ president Dr Danny Lamm and executive director Peter Wertheim, assuring them Qantas will expand ground staff and give staff special training to cope with transit issues, as well as setting up a telephone hotline for Qantas passengers in Dubai.

However, AIJAC executive director Dr Colin Rubenstein, who with AIJAC national chair Mark Leibler, also met with Joyce, told The AJN the jury is still out on exactly what the UAE government has promised.

He said despite Carr’s letter, he would like to see “a direct public statement” from the UAE on Israeli-stamped passports and on the status of Israeli passport holders.

“This letter from our Foreign Minister does not yet constitute such a statement from the UAE, nor is the issue of Israeli passport holders addressed, but we trust such a public commitment will be soon forthcoming,” he said.