Qatar complained to the United Nations that Bahraini fighter jets violated its airspace, a claim Bahrain denied, less than two weeks before a meeting of Gulf leaders aimed at strengthening ties in the region.

Qatar told the UN Security Council “about Bahraini military aircraft’s violations of Qatar’s airspace over its territorial waters” on Dec. 9, Qatar’s foreign ministry said in a statement Thursday. It was citing a letter its UN Ambassador Alya Ahmed bin Saif Al-Thani sent to Jerry Matjila, president of the Security Council for this month, and to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Bahrain denied the allegations, describing them as irresponsible and false, state-run BNA reported, citing a foreign ministry statement. On that date, it said, two Bahraini F-16 aircraft and two from the U.S. were on a drill in the designated military exercise area in Saudi Arabia’s airspace. After the exercises ended, the planes headed back to Bahrain, crossing the airspace of Saudi Arabia, to land at Isa Air Base, according to the statement.

“The ministry affirms that this is the usual exit route from the military drill area towards the airspace of the Kingdom of Bahrain and that on their way back, the aircraft have not used the Qatari airspace as the Royal Bahraini Air Force fighters always perform their sorties in a professional manner, making sure not to penetrate the borders of other countries,” the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, trade and transport links with Qatar in 2017, accusing the gas-rich country of maintaining close ties with Iran and supporting terrorism. Qatar denies the allegations.

Talks of a potential breakthrough in relations began to circulate in recent weeks. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close to a preliminary rapprochement that may not initially include the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, Bloomberg reported this month.

Kuwait’s foreign minister said last week that a meeting of Gulf leaders is planned for Jan. 5 in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

In a separate statement Thursday, Bahrain said it’s looking forward to the summit, which “will lead to strengthening Gulf dialogue,” BNA reported, citing Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani.



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