Yemen’s warring parties agree to reopen Sanaa airport: sources

Yemen’s warring parties agree to reopen Sanaa airport: sources

Yemen's warring parties agreed on Wednesday to reopen Sanaa airport in the Houthi-held capital, sources said,
3 min read
12 December, 2018
The Saudi-led coalition controls Yemen's airspace [Getty]
Sanaa’s international airport will be reopened, reports confirmed after an agreement by Yemen’s warring parties during peace talks in Sweden.

The Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels agreed to allow international flights to stop at a government-held airport for inspections before flying in or out of rebel-rebel-held Sanaa, two sources familiar with the talks said.

The parties have yet to confirm whether those inspections would take place in Aden airport or Sayoun, the sources added.

The Houthi rebels hold most population centres, including Hodeida and the capital Sanaa from which it ousted Hadi's government in 2014. The government is now based in the southern port of Aden.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in the war in 2015 to restore Hadi's government controls the air space.

On Tuesday, Yemen's warring parties agreed to a prisoner swap of more than 15,000 detainees by 20 January, a member of the rebel delegation confirmed.

The lists will be reviewed over four weeks, ahead of a final swap to be facilitated by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the representatives said.

An agreement was reached earlier this month to exchange prisoners held by both sides.

The government has provided the UN mediators with an initial list of 8,200 prisoners allegedly held by the Houthis.

The government list included members of the family of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was killed by the Houthis in December 2017. Among the list are 300 children and 88 women.

The Houthis provided its own list of prisoners held by the government.

While UN officials at the talks called the exchange of prisoner lists "very impressive", the sheer size of the swap could possibly delay the 20 January deadline.

The UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said "we can handle the logistics" with partners.

"If this can be achieved, that certainly is a positive step forward," he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. 

"Any measures that involve increasing the amount of trust and confidence that's built up can, we believe, help achieve a lasting resolution to this conflict."

Martin Griffiths, the UN's Yemen envoy, told reporters in Sweden on Monday that he was encouraged by "the positive and serious spirit" both sides have demonstrated in the talks.

Also on Tuesday it was announced that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres would hold meetings with the government and Houthi delegations and address Thursday's closing session of the current round of talks.

Western governments have pressed for an end to the war, which massively escalated when the Saudi-led alliance intervened in 2015 to restore the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi after Houthis overran the capital.

The Sweden talks mark the first attempt in two years to broker an end to the Yemen conflict, which has killed more than 10,000 people - though rights groups say the actual figure is five times higher.

Some 14 million people are at imminent risk of starvation in Yemen, according to UN estimates.

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