Icelandic Airline Air Atlanta, which received strong criticism for transporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, has stopped all arms transport activities while the government reviews the situation, RÚV reports. The airline informed its customers they no longer have a license to transport arms.
Air Atlanta made at least 25 trips transporting weapons from Bulgaria, Serbia, and Slovakia to Saudi Arabia on the basis of a license granted by Icelandic authorities. Weapons transported to Saudi Arabia are known to end up in Syria and Yemen, where human rights violations are rampant.
The airline had been granted a license for the transport of arms despite the fact that both Icelandic law and international agreements Iceland is a party to prohibit the transfer of arms to areas where they can be used against civilians or to commit war crimes.
Air Atlanta representatives denied requests for an interview on the issue, though CEO Hannes Hilmarsson sent a written response to RÚV yesterday.
“Air Atlanta has now informed its customers that the company does not have the permission of authorities for further transport of arms as it stands, and we respect the Icelandic government taking the time now to review work processes and political stances on such transport,” the letter stated. “Air Atlanta operates under an Icelandic air operations license, under the supervision of Icelandic authorities and will of course operate according to the policies and rules which the Icelandic government puts forth in these issues.”
Hannes says arms transport was not a significant part of the company’s operations or profits. The letter claims the company flew only six flights containing weapons in 2017 out of 6,672 total flights. Hannes adds, furthermore, that customers do not pay more for transporting weapons than other cargo.
The parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and Environment and Transport Committee held a joint meeting on Friday to discuss the issue. The meeting was also attended by Icelandic Transport Authority Director Þórólfur Árnason. Reform Party Chairperson Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir said the meeting was informative. “But it is very clear that this has not been looked at well enough by half of the administration,” she added, saying Iceland is not following up on its international commitments.
Rósa Björk Brynjólfsdóttir, deputy chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee said Iceland needs to clarify its political responsibility when it comes to fulfilling international obligations. “For example, we are party to the international Arms Trade Treaty, we are party to agreements banning transport of landmines, we are also party to UN Security Council resolutions that ban arms imports to Yemen,” Rósa stated. “Everyone who wants to know it knows that weapons transport of this kind to Saudi Arabia, that there is a very strong likelihood that those weapons end up in Yemen which has been publicly, by international organizations, defined as one of the most terrible war zones in the world.”