Houthis reject government proposals over Sanaa airport
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. –