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Belarus should face further action over plane diversion, U.S. nominee says

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President Joe Biden’s nominee as U.S. representative to a U.N. aviation body suggested that Belarus should be temporarily barred from voting at the council in response to its May diversion of a Ryanair flight.

“More action needs to be taken,” C. B. “Sully” Sullenberger told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his nomination to be the U.S. representative on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations air safety body.

He noted that under certain conditions ICAO “can temporarily remove the voting rights of a state for violating international norms…We should be pulling every lever necessary to hold accountable those responsible for this act.”

The Belarus air force intercepted the Ryanair plane flying between Athens and Vilnius on May 23 and forced it to land in Minsk. Belarusian authorities arrested a dissident journalist and his girlfriend who were on the plane.

Senator Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, asked at the hearing what options ICAO has “in order to prevent a repeat of these kind of actions.”

Sullenberger said the Belarus arrest of journalist Roman Protasevich “showed flagrant disregard for international norms of aviation security and safety.”

Sullenberger said ICAO “must ensure that those standards are upheld” and he vowed to push for a full chronology of what happened.

Sullenberger rose to fame in 2009 as a commercial pilot who safely landed an Airbus A320 on New York’s Hudson River after hitting a flock of geese.

The European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada have blacklisted numerous Belarus officials, lawmakers and ministers over the May episode.

In July, the Biden administration banned ticket sales for air travel between the United States and Belarus.

Photo – EPA-EFE/YAUHEN YERCHAK

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