Dubai: Tunisian government has confirmed that the UAE authorities had “credible information” on possible security breaches that led to banning several Tunisian women from boarding Emirates flights from Tunis to Dubai. 

Emirates on Sunday night said it was suspending its flights to Tunisia indefinitely shortly after the Tunis government said it had banned UAE carriers from landing in its airports, in retaliation for the banning those women from boarding the Dubai flights.  

“As instructed by the Tunisian authorities, Emirates will stop all its services between Dubai and Tunisia starting from 25 December 2017 until further notice. Affected passengers are advised to contact their travel agent or booking office for assistance,” an Emirates spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Gulf News. The airline did not elaborate on the issue but industry sources said it was about security fears.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, meanwhile, said on his twitter account: “We met with our brothers in Tunisia about security procedures that have been imposed.”

“Here in the UAE, we are proud of our experience in empowering women, we appreciate Tunisian women, respect them and value their pioneering experience, and we see them as the protectors of safety. We will avoid attempts at misinterpretation and misrepresentation,” he added.

Speaking on the issue to Tunisian local media, Saida Qrash, Tunisian Presidential Spokeswoman, said she understood the UAE security concerns.

“We have summoned the UAE ambassador and we tried to get an explanation why those women were not permitted to travel on Emirates airlines to Dubai,” she said, noting that the decision was “a UAE sovereign decision based on credible security information.” 

She said security agencies in some countries have warned recently that a number of Tunisian women or women who carry Tunisian passports have returned from Syria and Iraq where they had fought with Daesh.

“These women pose security threats accruing to those agencies,” she added, without confirming if that was the reason behind the UAE decision.

Meanwhile, industry sources said the Tunisian statement could be a way for Tunis to reconsider its ban on UAE carriers. But the sources added that Emiartes and other UAE carriers may not be in a hurry to go back. “Eventually the decision to resume the routes will be based on commercial and viability basis.”