US opposes plan to move ICAO's headquarters to Doha

Washington DC
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The United States is opposed to a proposal by Qatar's government to move the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization to Doha from its Montreal, Canada base.

"We are not interested in moving anywhere. It is extremely disruptive to what we think is a hugely important United Nation's agency," says ambassador Duane Woerth, the United States representative to ICAO, Thursday at a luncheon hosted by the International Aviation Club of Washington, DC.

"It's not about Doha," he says. "To move it anywhere would be to disruptive to us."

News surfaced in April that Qatar had proposed moving the headquarters to its capital city, which have been in Montreal since in 1946.

The proposal came as ICAO was concluding an agreement with the government of Canada on a new 20-year lease for its Montreal headquarters, says Woerth.

Canada owns the facility.

The lease agreement was reached after 18 months of negotiations, and the terms have been authorized by ICAO's secretary general, Woerth says.

"[ICAO] has always been in Canada and I don't know of any other UN agency that has moved," he adds.

Woerth says relocation will disrupt hundreds of workers in Montreal, where ICAO has the equivalent of 700 full-time employees.

"[It] took years to assemble worldwide international [experts] and their staff," Woerth says.

ICAO resolutions require the assembly to consider the proposal, which must be approved by a minimum of 60% of member states to be accepted.

There are 191 member states, meaning 115 would need to approve the proposal.

Woerth adds that the assembly can decide to raise the 60% threshold.

Members will look at the Qatari option at ICAO's triennial assembly, which begins on 24 September 2013.

Qatar Airways is preparing to open a new hub airport at Doha.