Tunisia has suspended Emirates Airlines flights after a public outcry over security measures in the United Arab Emirates targeting Tunisian women and preventing them from boarding flights.
The Tunisian transport ministry said it had “decided to suspend” Emirates flights to Tunis “until the airline is able to find the appropriate solution to operate its flights in accordance with international law and agreements.”
An Emirates Airlines spokesperson confirmed to AFP: “Emirates will stop services between Tunis and Dubai, as instructed by the Tunisian authorities, with effect from December 25, 2017.”
A number of Tunisian women had said their travel to the UAE on Emirate airlines had been delayed and some had been forced to undergo additional examination of their visas.
That triggered angry reactions on social media and Tunisian news outlets.
The United Arab Emirates said that “security information” had caused the delays.
The UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter: “We contacted our Tunisian brothers about security information that necessitated taking specific procedures.
“We should avoid misleading attempts… We highly value Tunisian women and respect them.”
The Tunisian government said it had asked the UAE ambassador for clarification, adding the envoy said the decision was for only a short period and the restrictions had been lifted.
Despite the clarification, Tunisian human rights groups issued a statement condemning the UAE’s measures as “discriminatory and racist”.
Tunisia has been trying to repair diplomatic ties with the UAE since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011 and after the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated En-Nahda party came to power.
Relations between Qatar on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on the other have been severed since June after the four Arab countries accused Doha of backing “terrorist” groups in the region, a charge unequivocally denied by Qatar.