SANAA, Yemen ( Associated Press) — Yemen’s warring sides failed to operate the first commercial flight in six years from the rebel-held capital on Sunday in a blow to an already fragile conflict in the country’s peace conflict.
The flight, with an Amman, Jordan destination, was planned as part of a UN-brokered, 60-day ceasefire agreement. that the internationally recognized government and Houthi rebels attacked earlier this month.
The ceasefire, which came into force on April 2, is the first nationwide ceasefire in Yemen in six years. It came amid concerted international and regional efforts to resolve the conflict, which ravaged the Arab world’s poorest country and pushed it to the brink of famine.
Yemen’s brutal civil war broke out in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis captured the capital of Sanaa and threw the government into exile. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.
The conflict has become a regional proxy war in recent years that has killed more than 150,000 people, including more than 150,000 civilians. It has also caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
As part of the ceasefire, both sides agreed to operate two commercial flights a week from Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt. Sana has been stopped by the Saudi-led coalition.
However, both sides failed to operate the maiden flight more than three weeks after the ceasefire took effect. They have traded the blame for failure.
The Houthis accused the Saudi-led coalition of failing to issue the necessary permits for the flight, without giving more details.
Moammar al-Iriani, the information minister of the internationally recognized government, said the Houthis did not comply with the agreement by providing travelers with passports issued by the rebels.
He said the government allowed 104 passengers to travel on the Sanaa-Amman flight, but the Houthis insisted on adding 60 more passengers “with unreliable passports”.
The internationally recognized government announced in March 2017 that it did not recognize documents issued by the rebels.
A spokesman for the Houthis did not respond to a request for comment.
UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg urged both sides to “work constructively” with the United Nations to address the challenges of flight delays.
“The purpose of the truce is to benefit citizens, including by reducing violence, providing fuel, and improving their freedom of movement to and from their country,” he said on Twitter. He did not elaborate.
Along with flights, the ceasefire also included allowing 18 ships to carry fuel to the port of Hodeida.controlled by the Houthis.
The sides have yet to call for the reopening of roads around Taiz and other provinces as part of the ceasefire. The government accused the Houthis of delaying the meeting because they did not send members of their delegation to the UN envoy’s office where the meeting was to take place.
Erin Hutchinson, Yemen director at the Norwegian Refugee Council, said she was “deeply disappointed” at the last-minute flight cancellations. She urged both sides to abide by their commitments in the ceasefire, including the reopening of flights and roads in Taiz and elsewhere in Yemen.
“The first few weeks of the ceasefire have already allowed us to access areas that were inaccessible for more than three years because of fighting,” she said.
The ceasefire has resulted in reduced ground and air fighting and the insurgents halted their cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, another pillar of the anti-Houthi coalition.
However, both sides have reported almost daily violations of the ceasefire.Especially around the government-held central city of Marib, which the Houthis have attempted to seize for more than a year.