Saudi-led coalition clears passenger flights to Sanaa
GENEVA - The United Nations said Friday that it has been cleared by a Saudi-led coalition to resume passenger flights to Yemen's rebel-held Sanaa airport, but desperately needed aid deliveries remain blocked.
The Arab coalition fighting Yemeni rebels announced Wednesday that it would allow the resumption of humanitarian deliveries to Sanaa airport and the crucial Red Sea port of Hodeida, after a more than two-week blockade following a missile attack on Riyadh.
But a spokesman for the UN's humanitarian affairs office told reporters in Geneva Friday that Riyadh has not yet granted permission to resume aid deliveries.
"The UN has been notified through our usual contacts in Riyadh that the regular passenger flight operated by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service can fly to Sanaa from Amman starting tomorrow," Jens Laerke said.
"However, there has been no substantial change since yesterday regarding the requests for clearance to go by boat to Hodeida and Saleef seaports with humanitarian supplies," he added.
Laerke said the UN was "encouraged" that passenger flights had been approved but stressed the urgent need to restart aid deliveries, with the threat of widespread famine intensifying.
A boat stocked with wheat and another with equipment to treat Yemen's cholera epidemic are ready to head to Hodeida once the UN gets the go-ahead, Laerke said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross landed a passenger flight at Sanaa on Wednesday, spokesman Ewan Watson said.
Seven million Yemenis are completely dependent on humanitarian supplies for their survival, according to the UN.
Allied with Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Iran-backed Huthi rebels control the capital Sanaa along with much of northern Yemen.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the Yemeni government's fight against the rebels.