Houthis re­ject gov­ern­ment pro­pos­als over Sanaa air­port

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

RIMBO, Swe­den: Ye­men’s Saudibacked gov­ern­ment has pro­posed re­open­ing the Houthi-held air­port in the cap­i­tal Sanaa on con­di­tion planes are in­spected in the air­ports of Aden or Sayun which are un­der its control, two gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

U.N. me­di­a­tor Martin Grif­fiths wants a deal on re­open­ing the air­port, shoring up the cen­tral bank and se­cur­ing a truce in Hodeida, the coun­try’s main port, held by the Houthis and a fo­cus of the war af­ter the coali­tion launched a cam­paign to cap­ture it this year.

Sanaa air­port, which has been bombed sev­eral times, is in Houthi ter­ri­tory but ac­cess is re­stricted by the Saudi-led coali­tion, which con­trols the air space.

Mar­wan Dam­maj, Ye­men’s cul­ture minister in the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abed Rab­bou Man­sour Hadi, told Reuters Sanaa air­port should be re­opened to put “an end to the peo­ple’s suf­fer­ing re­gard­ing trans­porta­tion.”

“But it should be a do­mes­tic air­port from where Ye­me­nis can go to Aden and then leave to in­ter­na­tional des­ti­na­tions,” said Dam­maj, a mem­ber of the gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion.

Hamza al-Ka­mali, an­other mem­ber of the del­e­ga­tion, said air­planes must stop in air­ports in the south­ern city of Aden or Sayun, east of the cap­i­tal, for in­spec­tion be­fore leav­ing Ye­men.

The Houthi del­e­ga­tion head at the peace talks, Mo­ham­mad Ab­dusalam, re­jected the pro­posal. “The air­port should be opened in ac­cor­dance to in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, and we do not ac­cept in­spec­tions,” Ab­dusalam told Al-Jazeera tele­vi­sion. A U.N. source de­clined to com­ment.

The United Nations is also try­ing to avert a full-scale as­sault on Hodeida, the en­try point for most of Ye­men’s com­mer­cial goods and aid.

Both sides have re­in­forced po­si­tions in the Red Sea city in spo­radic bat­tles af­ter a de-es­ca­la­tion last month. The gov­ern­ment said it would not rule out an of­fen­sive on the key port of Hodeida if rebels refuse to with­draw.

“We say that the city should be con­trolled by a po­lice force from Hodeida’s sons and not the Houthis. We can­not le­git­imize the pres­ence of the Houthi in Hodeida,” Ka­mali said.

Ab­dusalam said the port of Hodeida must be kept apart from the mil­i­tary con­flict, and that a gov­ern­ment should be formed first be­fore all par­ties are dis­armed.

Mean­while, the U.N. refugee agency said Fri­day there were nearly 1,500 civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in Ye­men from Au­gust through Oc­to­ber.

UNHCR urged the two sides to do more to pro­tect civil­ians, say­ing data from Ye­men shows an av­er­age of 123 civil­ian killed and wounded ev­ery week dur­ing the three-month pe­riod, in a war that has killed at least 16,000 civil­ians.

The agency says of the 1,478 civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, 33 per­cent were women and chil­dren. That’s a to­tal of 217 women and chil­dren killed and 268 wounded.

The Houthis control Sanaa and the other most pop­u­lated ar­eas, while the ousted gov­ern­ment based in the south­ern city of Aden has strug­gled to ad­vance de­spite the aid of Arab states. –

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