Algeria Warns It May Take ‘counter-measures’ over Pilots’ Boycott

Algeria warned today that it would take counter-measures against foreign airlines and their pilots who observed the air boycott called for by the International Federation of Airline Pilots Associations (IFALPA). The nature of the counter-measures was not specified. But reports from several Arab capitals indicated that the Arab world was ready to back up Algeria. One report spoke of a counter-boycott against foreign airlines and other transportation services.

The boycott of flights to and from Algeria was taken as a measure of last resort when the international pilots’ group failed in its efforts to negotiate the release of the El Al Israel Jet airliner hijacked by Palestinian terrorists on July 23 and held ever since by Algeria along with 12 Israeli passengers and crewmen. The pilots’ organization made it clear that it regarded the issue not as political but as one involving a menace to the safety of air travel.

Algeria’s announcement that it would retaliate was reported today by the Algerian News Agency. It was also reported that the Algerian representatives of the three principal foreign airlines serving that country-Air France, Alitalia and Swissair – were summoned to the civilian aviation department of the Algerian Transport Ministry and informed of the Government’s stand. The Algerian Government meanwhile reiterated that it would not release the crew of the hijacked airliner until it had completed its “investigation” of the affair. It gave no indication when that would be. Air Algerie, the Algerian national airline, announced last night that all of its flights were operating normally.

FRENCH AIRLINE PILOTS UNION SAYS ‘POLITICAL ASPECTS’ WON’T DETER BOYCOTT

Air France, with 32 flights a week between French and Algerian cities, is the airline most affected by the boycott. But Jacques Landragin, secretary of the French National Union of Airline Pilots, announced today that French pilots would adhere to it. He made the announcement after meeting with Capt. Jan Bartelski, IFALPA’s president and Pierre Donatien. managing director of Air France. “We are persuaded that there is nothing more to be done, “M. Landragin said. “We are taking action and refuse to accept the intervention of political questions in our professional problems.” The reference was to the possible repercussion the boycott could have on France-Algerian relations. French pilots employed by Air Algerie were reportedly being allowed to decide on an individual basis whether to participate in the boycott. They comprise a majority of the pilots of Algerian airliners. Air Algerie is partially owned by Air France.

A report from Beirut today said the Arab governments are consulting on the boycott crisis. One local newspaper called for “implacable reprisals.” It quoted Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Abdullah Yafi as saying that the country would back any move by Algeria. A similar pledge was reportedly given by Jordan’s Transport Minister, Amin Younes Hussaini. An Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Cairo has contact the Arab League with a view to organizing a common front against foreign airlines that boycotted Algeria. The International Confederation of Arab Trade Unions in Cairo threatened to boycott any airline that participated in the IFALPA action against Algeria and said it would extend its counter-boycott to other transportation services-obviously shipping – of the countries involved.

The Guardian commented today that the IFALPA action was taken for professional rather than political reasons. It quoted Capt. Bartelski who said “we are not doing this because Israel is involved but because hijacking has become a sport and we must stop it. Sooner or later hijacking will result in the crash of a plane and we cannot let that happen,” he warned.

(Christian Science Monitor correspondent John K. Cooley said in a dispatch from Beirut today that the boycott “raises the possibility of a new Western-Arab confrontation that would be costly to both sides” and “deepens the difficulties of both French President deGaulle and Algerian President Boumedienne.” He said if deGaulle approves French participation in the boycott “the general might lose much of the luster he still retains as a friend of the Arabs” and French Saharan oil Interests could suffer. As for Boumedienne, who is under Arab pressure on the plane issue, “his possible return of the plane, which was under negotiation in Rome seems even less likely now since It would involve a double loss of face toward the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world,” Mr. Cooley said.)

NEXT STORY