UN Refuses to Take Control of Yemen’s Main Airport, Insists on Renewed Negotiations

Conflict-affected Yemenis receive local charity-provided food rations in Sana'a, Yemen, 13 April 2017. Photo: Yahya Arhab/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

The United Nations denied it had received any formal request from Saudi Arabia to take control of Yemen’s main airport, dismissing Gulf state’s call to do so and asserting that the parties to the conflict are responsible for solving the crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition forces in Yemen requested the United Nations on Thursday to take control of the country’s main airport in the capital Sanaa, currently held by armed Houthi rebels, state news agency SPA reported. The request was issued after several aid groups’ call to have the airport reopened, stating that a year-long blockade was impeding humanitarian aid delivery and preventing travel of thousands of patients seeking treatment abroad.

Dujarric said he was unaware if the United Nations had received a formal request from the Saudi-led coalition for the world body to take control of the airport, despite being in regular contact with all sides involved in conflict. “The airport is not under U.N. control. The parties to the conflict have the responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians and their access to humanitarian relief, including through the use of airspace and airport,” Durajjic said.

In a latest push to bring warring parties to the negotiating table, the U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed visited Iran on Saturday as part of his tour of regional countries to find political solutions to end the ongoing crisis in Yemen. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Ould Cheikh Ahmed stressed the importance of finding comprehensive political solutions to end the humanitarian crisis in the impoverished war-torn Arab country.

Civil war in Yemen has been raging for more than two years, with Shi’ite Muslim Houthis supported by Iran fighting Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Current death toll is more than 10.000 people, while humanitarian disaster escalated with a famine and the cholera outbreak of more than 300.000 recorded cases of infection.

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