The UN has indicated is not responsible for controlling Yemen’s main airport, dismissing a call by a Saudi-led military coalition for the world body to do so.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen asked the UN on Thursday to take control of the airport in the capital Sanaa, which is in the territory controlled by the rival Houthi fighters, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.
The coalition said it was ready to allow the reopening of the airport on the condition that 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”.
On Friday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric called on the rival sides to allow humanitarian aid access, including through Sanaa airport which has been closed to all but limited UN flights for a year.
“[The airport] is not under UN control,” Dujarric said on Friday.
“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.”
UN agencies and aid groups have repeatedly called for the airport in Sanaa to be reopened to allow the delivery of desperately needed relief to the millions of Yemenis caught in the conflict.
Those people also face a deadly cholera outbreak and looming famine.
Dujarric said he was unaware if the UN had received a formal request from the Saudi-led coalition for the world body to take control of the airport.
“We have been in contact with the government of Yemen and the Saudi-led coalition to advocate the reopening of Yemen’s airspace around the airport for humanitarian flights,” he said.
Yemen has been torn apart by a civil war in which the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, supported by the Saudi-led coalition, seeks to push back gains made by the Iran-allied Houthi fighters.
The Saudi-led coalition imposed an air and sea blockade on opposition-held territory in March 2015 and tightened it in August last year saying it was the only way to stop weapons smuggling.