Air Namibia (SW, Windhoek Int'l) says it has opened up a dialogue with the liquidator of defunct Belgian carrier Challengair (1I, Brussels National) in a bid to settle their long-running dispute.

Spearheaded by Belgian lawyer Anicet Baum, Challenge Air's estate has relentlessly pursued Air Namibia for a court-awarded claim of EUR25 million euro (USD29 million). The award dates back to a failed 1998 wet-lease agreement involving B767-300(ER) msn 25535 and pertains to compensation for outstanding debts owed by Air Namibia to Challenge Air for services such as maintenance, leasing dues, and insurance premiums. Though the claims date back nearly a decade, Air Namibia has attempted to avoid making payment, that is until Challenge Air started garnishing its European bank accounts late last year.

According to The Patriot newspaper, the most recent seizure was on March 7 involving EUR7.904 million euro (USD7.789 million) taken from a Commerzbank account. Moreover, the Belgians have also threatened to seize fuel on-board Air Namibia's A330-200s while they are at Frankfurt Int'l, a move that would ground the aircraft at the airfield indefinitely.

According to an Air Namibia statement issued on March 8, talks with Challenge Air have focused on determining all "viable options" that could lead to the rapid resolution of the dispute. However, the state-owned airline stated that as the European arbitral award remains sub-judice in Namibia, it will not acknowledge, engage or negotiate with any Namibian individuals or companies purporting to be official representatives of Challenge Air in Namibia until the Namibian courts have not officially recognised a local liquidator for Challenge Air.

"We remain committed to finalizing the matter swiftly and will provide a further update for the benefit of all our loyal stakeholders once the Namibian High Court has ruled on the matter," it said.