The first commercial flight scheduled to depart the Houthi-controlled Sanaa International Airport in Yemen’s capital in over six years has been delayed indefinitely amid accusations between the country’s warring sides.
A flight of the flag carrier Yemenia Airways was scheduled to take off on Sunday morning, to transport passengers in need of medical treatment to Jordan’s capital Amman, as part of an essential step in the ongoing two-month truce, reports Xinhua news agency.
Just hours before the flight, the airline said it had not received permits and had to postpone the flight indefinitely, expressing “deep regret to the travellers”.
Raaid Jabal, deputy of the Houthi-controlled aviation authority in Sanaa, blamed the Yemen government for refusing to issue permits for the flight.
“This is considered a violation of the truce that was announced by the UN envoy for Yemen,” Jabal was quoted by the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV as saying.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s Minister of Information Moammar al-Eryani said in a tweet that the internationally-recognised government refused to greenlight the flight because some of the passengers do not possess “passports issued by the legitimate government”.
The government agreed to allow 104 passengers to board the plane, while the Houthi militia insisted on adding another 60 passengers with “unreliable passports”, said the Mnister, urging the UN to exert pressure on the rebels to “expedite the flight”.
The Houthi-controlled Sanaa International Airport has been closed to commercial flights since August 2016.
The group captured the ground area of the airport, and the Saudi-led coalition controlled the airspace over the Houthi-held city and its airport.
Only UN aid planes have been allowed to land and take off from the airport.
Also on Sunday, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg expressed his concern over the postponement of the flight.
“I urge the parties to work constructively with me and my office to find a solution that allows the flights to resume as planned,” Grundberg said in a tweet.
Yemen’s warring sides agreed to implement from April 2 a UN-brokered ceasefire that was meant to last two months.
The truce includes the halt of all ground, aerial and naval military offensive operations; allowing the entry of 18 fuel ships into the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah and two commercial flights a week to and from the Sanaa airport; as well as lifting the siege to allow humanitarian aid access to the government-held Taiz city.
Yemen has been mired in a civil war since late 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi militia seized control of several northern provinces and forced the Saudi-backed government out of Sanaa.