We don't know which air forces use our air space - Quayle

Saturday 15th June 2019 4:08 am

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A demonstration outside Ronaldsway airport, protesting the use of the airport for the training of Royal Saudi Air Force pilots. The protest was jointly organised by Amnesty International IOM Group and the Mannin branch of the Celtic League.

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The Manx Government does not keep track of which foreign military air forces use its air space for training exercises.

News that pilots from the Royal Saudi Air Force have used Ronaldsway for training purposes have led to protests outside the airport by campaigners horrified that a regime with a dubious human rights record and accused of war atrocities has been using Isle of Man air space.

But Chief Minister Howard Quayle has ducked a House of Keys question on how many international air forces have used Ronaldsway in the past five years - by stating the government does not hold the data and it would be too much hard work to collect.

In the same reply to the written question from Clare Bettison, Mr Quayle also passes the buck for allowing Saudi Arabian pilots to use Ronaldsway to the UK Ministry of Defence.

Miss Bettison had asked under what agreements the Isle of Man hosted foreign air forces at Ronaldsway, how many had done so over the past five years, under what circumstances the UK could rescind permission for any such agreement and in what situation the Chief Minister could refuse to host a nation’s air force.

But Mr Quayle’s parliamentary response is likely to leave unimpressed those who have been outraged at the use of the airport by the Royal Saudi Air Force.

Mr Quayle states: ’The Isle of Man Airport is licensed for public use and, when open, is available for the take-off and landing of aircraft for all persons on equal terms and conditions. All types of aircraft, including military aircraft, are accepted. This is normal for any commercial airport and no individual agreements are in place.’

He adds: ’There is no centrally held data to determine which international air forces have used the airport over the past five years and how many times.’

The Department of Infrastructure ’does not have the resources available’ to carry out the research to compile such data, he claims.

On the issue of who decides which air forces can come to the island, he says: ’The UK is constitutionally responsible for the island’s defence and international relations.

’The relationship with other nations’ air forces is a matter for the UK Government.’

Amnesty International and the Mannin branch of the Celtic League have organised demonstrations at Ronaldsway after it was revealed that Saudi pilots in RAF Hawk trainer jets have used Ronaldsway for training purposes,

Protestors have argued that the use of Ronaldsway by Saudi pilots was unacceptable given accusations against Saudi Arabia over its involvement in the Yemen Civil War.

In 2016, a UN Report suggested the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen was deliberately targeting civilians in the conflict.

Saudi Arabian air strikes in Yemen have been responsible for killing many civilians, it is claimed.

Under Barack Obama, the USA stopped shipments of weapons to Saudi Arabia due to human rights concerns, but the Trump administration resumed supplies in 2017.

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