Yemenia has signed a surprise deal with Airbus for 10 A320s as the diplomatic row with France rumbles on in the wake of June's A310 crash in June. The airline is now seeking a third party to adjudicate in the accident investigation.

Chief executive Abdulkalek Al-Kadi said recently that Yemenia had been "attacked day and night" by French government officials, and has threatened legal action over the "harassment" that has followed the accident, which is being handled by France's BEA investigation agency.

However, the airline has put this row to one side at the show, signing a memorandum of understanding worth $700 million for 10 A320s for delivery from late 2011. It is a particular coup for Airbus, as Yemenia's current narrowbody fleet is an all-Boeing affair.

Speaking at the signing, Yemenia board member Saleh Alawaji said the airline was "distinguishing between Airbus as a manufacturer that we are happy with, which doesn't have anything to do with politicians".

However, Alawaji said that the airline is in discussions with "various third parties" to investigate the 30 June A310 crash, in which 153 people died. The accident occurred during final approach to the Comoros Islands.

Alawaji said that a third-party investigator is being sought because the accident is "affecting the reputation" of Yemen. It has also been requested by the insurers, he added.

"The black boxes are in France but they are supposed to be returned to the Comoros. Then we will apply by law to get them back," said Alawaji.

Yemenia's current fleet comprises three A310s, two A330s, one Boeing 727, four 737-800s and three Bombardier Dash 8s and a Twin Otter. It holds orders for 10 A350 XWBs. The A320s, which will be delivered over four years, will be deployed on Yemenia's existing and new services to Africa, India and Europe, as well as on regional routes.

Source: Flight Daily News