Egypt approves flights from rebel-held Yemen capital: government

Egypt approves flights from rebel-held Yemen capital: government
2 min read
Egypt has approved direct flights between Yemen's Sanaa and Cairo
Air traffic into the rebel-held capital has been largely halted by a Saudi-led blockade [Getty]

Egypt has approved direct flights between Yemen's rebel-controlled capital and Cairo, the Yemeni government said Tuesday, in the latest sign of progress in the war-torn country.

The green light comes after the first commercial flight in six years flew from Sanaa to Amman in Jordan last week, as part of a UN-brokered truce between Yemen's internationally recognised government and the Houthi rebels.

"We express our deep thanks to the brotherly Egyptian government... for agreeing to operate direct flights between Sanaa and Cairo in accordance with the armistice agreement," Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak wrote on Twitter.

"The competent authorities in the two countries will work in the coming days to coordinate and complete the technical procedures for operating the flights," he added.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to express his "sincere thanks... for allowing direct flights between Cairo and Sanaa within the framework of the UN armistice in Yemen", an Egyptian foreign ministry statement said.

Weekly flights to and from Cairo and Amman are part of the truce agreement that went into effect on April 2, and is due to be renewed next week.

On May 16, a Yemenia plane carrying 126 passengers, including critically ill hospital patients and their relatives, became the first commercial flight to leave Sanaa since August 2016.

Air traffic into the rebel-held capital has been largely halted by a Saudi-led blockade, but there have been exemptions for aid flights that are a key lifeline for the population.

Despite accusations of violations from both sides - the Saudi-led military coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels - the truce has significantly reduced levels of violence.

The Saudi-led coalition stepped in to support Yemen's government in 2015, a year after the Houthis seized control of the capital.

The Houthis last week said they were considering renewing the ceasefire and Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy to Yemen, said he was working with both sides to "overcome outstanding challenges and to ensure the extension of the truce".

The war has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced millions, creating the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.