U.A.E. slaps visas on Canadians
Canadians will need visas to enter the United Arab Emirates as of Jan. 2, 2011, according to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and the U.A.E.'s embassy in Ottawa.
The move is the latest salvo in a growing diplomatic spat between Ottawa and the U.A.E. over airline landing rights at Canadian airports that also saw Canada evicted from a key military base in Dubai.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada posted an update to its website that says the visas will be required for tourism and business purposes and can be obtained prior to travel at the U.A.E. Embassy.
Opposition critics have slammed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government for its handling of relations with the U.A.E. — a key Mideast trading partner that had provided the Canadians with free use of the once-covert military base known as Camp Mirage to stage operations in Afghanistan.
But Conservative sources told CBC News the Canadian government viewed the U.A.E.'s use of the base as a bargaining chip in its request for Ottawa to grant state carriers Emirates and Etihad more access to Canadian airports as "blackmail." The Canadian military left Camp Mirage last week.
A U.A.E. embassy staff member noted that every U.A.E. citizen has always needed a visa to enter Canada, including diplomats and the embassy's head of staff.
Visa move a 'tit-for-tat thing': Rae
The Conservatives insist the relationship between the two countries remains robust, but Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said the U.A.E.'s latest move belies the government's line that nothing's wrong.
"It's kind of a tit-for-tat thing that's going on," Rae said Monday during an interview airing on CBC's Power and Politics with Evan Solomon.
"It's obviously an inconvenience for travellers."
A 1999 agreement allows Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways to fly up to six times a week into Canada. But the U.A.E. government says that with 27,000 Canadians living in that country, and a significant trade relationship — the U.A.E. is Canada's largest trade partner in the Middle East and North Africa — six flights per week are not enough.
Air Canada has objected to any increased service by Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways to Canadian destinations. It says that in certain areas, such as Dubai, there is very little originating traffic that comes to Canada.
With files from The Canadian Press