UN Envoy Calls for Urgent Reopening of Yemen Airport

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The UN Yemen envoy called on Friday for the urgent reopening of the airport in the rebel-held capital Sanaa, which has been closed to all but limited UN flights for a year.

A Saudi-led coalition supporting the government imposed an air and sea blockade on rebel-held territory in March 2015 and tightened it in August last year saying it was the only way to stop weapons smuggling.

But UN agencies and aid groups have called repeatedly for the airport to be reopened to allow the delivery of desperately needed relief to the millions of Yemenis caught up in the conflict who face a deadly cholera outbreak and looming famine. 

"I reiterate my call for the urgent and immediate need to reopen Sanaa international airport as soon as possible," UN Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed tweeted after three days of talks in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition said late Thursday that it was ready to allow the reopening of the airport on condition 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 Huthis". 

In March, the coalition made a similar request for the supervision of the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida but the request was rejected by the UN. 

More than 8,300 people have been killed in the conflict in Yemen since March 2015 and nearly 2,000 more have died of cholera since April 2016. 

The UN has warned seven million people are on the brink of famine. 

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