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Date: 29 July 2014

Remarks of Tony Tyler at ICAO Press Conference following High-level Meeting on Risks to Civilian Aviation Arising from Conflict Zones, Montreal

Good afternoon. Today we had an extraordinary meeting of the leaders of the air transport industry. We have come together in the aftermath of the tragedy of MH17 to find ways to make the air transport system safer and more secure.

The tragic shooting-down of MH17 was an attack on the whole air transport industry. The world’s airlines are angry—and I suspect that the same is true for each of the 3.3 billion people who will board aircraft this year.  Civil aircraft are instruments of peace. They should never be the target of weapons of war. That is enshrined in international law through the Chicago Convention and other treaties.

The greatest respect that we can pay to the memory of those involved is to leave nothing unturned in our quest to understand the causes of these tragic episodes and to take every available measure to ensure that they are not repeated.  And I have to say that we are enraged by the continued reports of obstacles being put in the way of those charged with performing this important task.

You have seen what is in our joint declaration.  IATA—on behalf of its 240 member airlines—fully supports the important work that we have committed to. And we appreciate the urgency with which ICAO has called this meeting and will be setting up a Task Force.

I believe that we have made a great start.  But of course the goal is to move from the framework that has been agreed today and deliver results. And I would like to spend a few minutes to discuss the results that the airline community is seeking.

There is no escaping that what happened to MH17 was a tragedy that should not have happened. And it exposed a gap in the system. The system is not broken. It works extremely well in the vast majority of cases. And the proof of that is clearly evident in that air transport is the safest mode of global mass transit known to humankind.  So the challenge is to close the specific gap or gaps that allowed this tragedy to happen.

From the airline perspective, there are two expectations that I would like to highlight:
Airlines need clear and accurate information on which to base operational decisions on where and when it is safe to fly. In the case of MH17 airlines were told that flights above 32,000 feet that traverse Ukraine would not be in harm’s way.  We now know how wrong that guidance was. It is essential that airlines receive clear guidance regarding threats to their passengers, crew and aircraft. Such information must be accessible in an authoritative, accurate, consistent, and unequivocal way. This is the responsibility of states. There are can be no excuses. Even sensitive information can be sanitized in a way that ensures airlines get essential and actionable information without compromising methods or sources. And, although I will repeat that this is a state responsibility, I can also commit that the industry is ready to assist in any way possible to help governments to make this happen.

This first expectation and gap to close I hope can be met in relatively short order. It is a top priority of all us here today.

There is a second gap that also must be filled, but which will have a longer time frame. There is no international law or convention that imposes on states a duty to manage the design, manufacture and deployment of anti-aircraft weapons. We have conventions that address chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons, plastic explosives, and weapons trade generally. MH17 has demonstrated that powerful and sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry is in the hands of the non-state entities. Under ICAO’s leadership, I am confident that we can find ways within the UN system, to augment the international law framework to ensure that states fully understand and discharge their responsibilities in this regard.

Read Joint Statement on Risks to Civil Aviation Arising from Conflict Zones

 

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