First commercial flight from Yemen’s capital since 2016 postponed as warring sides trade accusations

The first commercial flight scheduled to depart Yemen’s Houthi-held capital airport in six years has been delayed indefinitely amid accusations between the country’s warring sides.

A plane of the national carrier Yemenia Airways planned to take off from the Sanaa International Airport on Sunday morning, to transport passengers in need of medical treatment to Jordan’s capital Amman, as an essential step in a two-month truce, Xinhua news agency reported.

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 Yemeni 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,” the Houthi official was quoted by the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV as saying.

The internationally recognised Yemeni government’s Information Minister, Moammar al-Eryani said in a tweet that the government refused to greenlight the flight because some of the passengers do not possess “passports issued by the legitimate government”.

The Yemeni government agreed to allow 104 passengers to board the plane, while the Houthi group insists on adding another 60 passengers with “unreliable passports,” said the Minister, urging the UN to exert pressure on the Houthi group to “expedite the flight”.

The Houthi-controlled Sanaa International Airport has been closed to commercial flights since August 2016. The Houthi 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 Sanaa airport.

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. It also include 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 Yemeni government out of Sanaa.

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