UN envoy calls for reopening of Yemen airport

The UN Yemen envoy on Friday (August 11th) called for the urgent reopening of the airport in Sanaa, which has been closed to all but limited UN flights for a year, AFP reported.

The Arab coalition imposed an air and sea blockade on territory held by the Houthis (Ansarallah) in March 2015 and tightened it in August last year, saying it was the only way to stop weapons smuggling.

But UN agencies and aid groups have called repeatedly for the airport to be reopened to allow the delivery of relief to the millions of Yemenis caught up in the conflict who face a deadly cholera outbreak and looming famine.

"I reiterate my call for the urgent and immediate need to reopen Sanaa international airport as soon as possible," UN Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said after three days of talks in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The coalition said late Thursday it was ready to allow the reopening of the airport on condition the UN provided support for airport security.

It said the airport remained closed "due to concerns for the safety of civilian travel and commercial flights, as well as the smuggling of weapons by the Houthis".

In March, the coalition made a similar request for the supervision of the Red Sea port of al-Hodeida, but the request was rejected by the UN.

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