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25 Jan, 2024 09:49

German plane denied access to African state’s airspace

Eritrea refused to provide clearance for a flight to Djibouti by Berlin’s foreign minister, according to the aircraft’s captain
German plane denied access to African state’s airspace

A German air force plane carrying Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has been denied permission to fly over Eritrea due to a lack of government authorization in the East African country.

The diplomat, who left Berlin on Wednesday for a tour of three African nations, was en route to Djibouti for the first leg of her trip but was forced to make an unplanned stopover in Saudi Arabia after being refused entry to Eritrean airspace.

According to the German Press Agency (dpa), Baerbock’s Airbus A321LR aircraft landed in the Saudi port city of Jeddah after spending more than an hour circling over the Red Sea.

“When things happen that are not actually planned, you have to be flexible,” the diplomat told reporters, claiming that the situation reflects the overall instability in the region, where armed conflicts persist in Sudan and Yemen.

Baerbock’s East African tour will also take her to Kenya and South Sudan. She intends to hold talks on potential ways to bring the warring factions in Sudan, where hostilities have raged since April of last year, to a ceasefire agreement.

“In Djibouti, one topic of my meetings will be how we can protect international shipping in the Red Sea from the Houthis’ attacks. Djibouti lies in direct proximity to Yemen, and the two countries have traditionally enjoyed close relations,” the minister said in a statement prior to her departure.

It is not the first time the German diplomat has been delayed on a foreign trip due to a flight problem. Baerbock’s week-long visit to the Indo-Pacific region in August was canceled after she was forced to land in Abu Dhabi due to mechanical issues with her Airbus A340 aircraft.

Apart from the lack of Eritrean authorization, Baerbock’s three-nation East African tour had already been hampered by mechanical issues. She had to travel on an air force plane due to engine trouble on her official aircraft, according to German media.

The military plane’s captain told the dpa that it was impossible to obtain overflight permission from the Eritrean Foreign Ministry “despite all our efforts.” 

Eritrean authorities have previously accused Berlin of meddling in regional affairs after the African country’s human rights record was criticized in the German parliament in 2018. Then German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had claimed Eritrea had made little progress in improving citizens’ rights following a peace agreement with neighboring Ethiopia to end a two-decade conflict.