Qatar has proposed moving the International Civil Aviation Organization from its longtime base in Montreal to Doha, an official said Wednesday, as Canada vowed to fight such a step.
The UN agency's 191 members are scheduled to consider the relocation bid at its next assembly in September, ICAO spokesman Anthony Philbin said, adding approval would require the support of at least 60 percent of member states.
In Ottawa, a government spokesman told AFP that Canada would fight to keep the organization on its turf.
The ICAO sets standards and regulations for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity, as well as environmental protections, and serves as forum for cooperation in civil aviation.
Montreal has been the ICAO's home since it was created in 1944, but Qatar is offering to build spectacular new offices, according to documents cited by the French-language daily La Presse.
Furthermore, Qatar argues the weather in Montreal is cold and too far from European and Asian aviation hubs.
To sweeten the deal, Doha said it would also offer to void all taxes for some 1,000 ICAO staff who would be asked to relocate.
Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
The move by Qatar to woo the ICAO is seen as a further effort to bolster its clout internationally, and comes as Canada and the ICAO are in negotiations to keep the agency at its current location until 2036.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has twice spoken to Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani this week about the matter, Baird's spokesman Joseph Lavoie told AFP.
"Our government is working to keep ICAO in Montreal," Lavoie said in an email.
A source close to Baird noted that Canada recently successfully fought off a similar bid by Singapore.
The source also said Baird plans to meet with the mayor of Montreal in the coming weeks "to plot a strategy to highlight Montreal's advantages, and to engage business and other stakeholders."
Qatar, a wealthy oil and gas producer, has made huge investments in infrastructure to establish itself as an international hub before it hosts the football World Cup in 2022.
A new international airport was scheduled to open in Doha on April 1 but was delayed after it failed to meet new security standards.
Built at a cost of $15 billion, the airport will have an initial capacity to handle 30 million passengers per year, and its sponsors hope to expand that figure to 50 million by the time work finishes in 2020.