WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that the State Department was looking closely at Qatar Airways’ acquisition of a 49 percent stake in Air Italy.
Questioned repeatedly about the deal during a U.S. Senate hearing, Pompeo said, “We’re looking very closely at this recent decision by Qatar to take on 49 percent of this airline.”
Both Republicans and Democrats at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing said they were concerned that the deal with the Italian carrier violated an agreement Qatar Airways reached with the United States in early 2018.
“There are lots of consultations taking place,” Pompeo said.
An aide to Senator Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the committee, noted that January marked the one-year anniversary of agreements between the United States and Qatar on government subsidies to state-owned Qatar Airways.
In a side letter to the agreement, the Qatari government indicated there was no intention to launch additional flights from Qatar but picking up passengers in Europe before flying to U.S. destinations.
The aide said the acquisition of Air Italy and transforming it into a carrier with five U.S. destinations from Milan runs counter to the agreement with Qatar Airways.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)