According to two industry sources, Yemen’s Houthi Administration has begun rehabilitation work at Sanaa airport, as the group that controls much of northern Yemen prepares for a future reopening of the facility under UN-led peace talks.
Since 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which overthrew the internationally recognized government in Sanaa, Yemen’s air space has been under Saudi control.
A request for comment from the coalition’s spokesman on whether it had agreed to release air space and allow the airport to resume regular operations was not immediately returned.
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 U.N. 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, something the Houthis deny.
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 Sanaa airport to ease a dire humanitarian crisis, while also pressing the Houthis to agree to a nationwide ceasefire.
The removal of the siege has been connected by Riyadh and Yemen’s Saudi-backed government to a truce agreement, which the Houthis have refused.
Oman, a key regional supporter of peace efforts and home to some Houthi officials, dispatched a mission to Sanaa this week to press the peace pact with the Houthis.
According to official media, Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Al-Busaidi arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for meetings.
The coalition has also barred access to Hodeidah port, Yemen’s primary commercial and humanitarian entry point.
The conflict, which is widely viewed in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has rendered 80 percent of Yemen’s population dependant on aid, with millions fearing hunger.