UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks during a press conference at Sana'a's international airport in the Yemeni capital on May 31, 2021. The airport has been closed since 2015 with the exception of UN flights. Image Credit: AFP

Aden: Yemen’s Houthi administration has started renovation work at Sana’a airport, two industry sources said, as the group that holds most of northern Yemen prepares for a possible reopening of the facility under UN-led peace efforts.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition has controlled Yemen’s air space since 2015, when the alliance intervened against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sana’a.

The coalition’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it had agreed to reopen air space and allow the airport to resume regular operations.

The industry sources told Reuters that construction work had begun in some parts of the airport, which has been closed since 2015 with the exception of UN flights.

It has been targeted dozens of times by coalition air strikes over the last six years. The military alliance says the facility is used for arms smuggling.

Oman’s efforts for peace 

Airport director Khaled Al Shayef said in a Twitter post on Wednesday that he met Yemenia airlines to discuss maintenance and equipment at the airport, and with the Yemen Oil Company on fuel supplies for aircraft.

The United Nations and the United States have called for the removal of restrictions on Houthi-held ports and Sana’a airport to ease a dire humanitarian crisis, while also pressing the Houthis to agree to a nationwide ceasefire.

Riyadh and Yemen’s Saudi-backed government have linked removing the blockade to a truce deal, a condition the Houthis have rejected.

Oman, a main regional backer of peace efforts which hosts several Houthi officials, this week sent a delegation to Sana’a to push the peace deal with Houthi officials.

Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Al Busaidi arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for talks, state media reported.

The coalition has also restricted access to Hodeidah port, the main entry point for Yemen’s commercial and aid imports.