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First commercial flight out of Sanaa in six years postponed | Houthis News

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The first commercial flight out of Yemen’s rebel-held capital in six years was indefinitely postponed on Sunday in a blow to an already fragile truce in the country’s grinding conflict, as rival sides traded blame for the flight postponement.

The Sanaa-Amman flight had been planned as part of the United Nations-brokered truce agreement that the internationally-recognised government and the Houthi rebels struck earlier this month.

The 60-day truce, which went into effect on April 2, came amid concerted international and regional efforts to find a settlement to the conflict that devastated the Arab world’s poorest country and pushed it to the brink of famine.

The Saudi-led military coalition launched a war in early 2015 in support of the internationally-recognised President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was forced into exile months after the Iranian-backed Houthis seized Sanaa and much of northern Yemen.

In recent years, the conflict has become a regional proxy war that has left more than 150,000 people dead, including at least 14,500 civilians. It has also created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

Blame game

As part of the truce, the two sides agreed to operate two commercial flights a week to and from Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt. Sanaa is blockaded by the Saudi-led coalition preventing supplies of essential goods, including life-saving medicines.

However, both sides failed to agree on operating the flight more than three weeks after the truce took effect. They have traded blame for the failure.

Calling it a “violation” of the truce, authorities in Sanaa said the flight was postponed after being denied the necessary permits from the Saudi-led coalition.

In Houthi-controlled Sanaa, the deputy head of civil aviation, Raed Talib Jabal, said the coalition’s refusal to permit Sunday’s flight was “a violation of the truce” that began earlier this month.

“The coalition of aggression deliberately seeks to double the suffering of the Yemeni people, while seeking to mislead international public opinion about the humanitarian file,” he said.

Yemen’s government blamed the Iran-backed Houthi rebels for the postponement, claiming they had tried to “smuggle” members of the Revolutionary Guards and Lebanese armed group Hezbollah onto the flight.

Moammar al-Eryani, information minister of the internationally-recognised government, said the Houthis did not adhere to the agreement by providing passengers with passports issued by the rebels, which it has not recognised since March 2017.

He said the government allowed the travel of 104 passengers on the Sanaa-Amman flight, but the Houthis insisted on adding 60 more passengers “with unreliable passports” using “fake names and forged documents”.

The flight “faltered due to the Houthi terrorist militia’s non-compliance with the agreement stipulating the approval of passports issued by the legitimate government”, al-Eryani said.

A spokesman for the Houthis did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Deep disappointment’

UN special envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg voiced concern over the delay and urged the parties to work with his office “to find a solution that allows the flights to resume as planned”.

A renewable two-month truce that went into effect in early April “is meant to benefit civilians including through reducing violence, making fuel available, and improving their freedom of movement to, from and within their country”, he said on Sunday.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) also expressed “deep disappointment” at the flight cancellation.

“This would have been a first small but important step towards long-lasting stability in Yemen. It is also a life-saver for tens of thousands of medical patients who desperately need urgent treatment abroad,” NRC Yemen Country Director Erin Hutchinson said in a statement.

“We hope both parties stick to their truce commitments, including allowing flights out of Sana’a airport and opening roads to Taiz and other governorates.”

The plane, operated by national carrier Yemenia, was expected to take off from the government-controlled southern port city of Aden, stop off in Sanaa, and take passengers in need of medical treatment to Jordan’s capital Amman.

But hours before the flight, the airline said “it has not yet received operating permits”. It expressed “deep regret to the travellers for not being allowed to operate” the long-awaited flight.

Yemenia added that it hoped “all problems will be overcome in the near future”, without specifying a date.

Sick passengers stranded

The flight postponement was a setback for a truce deal that has provided a rare respite from violence in much of the country, and has also seen fuel tankers begin arriving at the port of Hodeidah, potentially easing fuel shortages in Sanaa and elsewhere.

In another potentially hopeful sign, Yemen’s President Hadi on April 7 handed his powers to a new leadership council tasked with holding peace talks with the Houthis.

The airport in Sanaa has been closed to commercial traffic since August 2016 when air attacks disrupted service to the city.

Aid flights continue to land in Sanaa, although service has periodically halted.

The pause of commercial flights has prevented “thousands of sick Yemeni civilians from seeking urgent medical treatment outside the country”, humanitarian groups CARE and NRC said last August.

They also cited “economic losses estimated to be in the billions”.

Daily flights out of Aden as well as the eastern city of Seiyun fly both domestically and to other countries in the region.





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Treat all refugees with the same compassion | Refugees

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People across Europe welcomed Ukrainians fleeing the war in their homes with open arms. Why was the same compassion not afforded to me when I was a refugee, asks writer and activist Nhial Deng.

Video Duration 02 minutes 06 seconds

‘Treat all refugees with the same compassion’ #AJOPINION

In 2010, I had to flee Ethiopia after my village was attacked. I woke up early in the morning and heard gunshots. I saw houses burning. I saw someone bleeding on the ground. I witnessed a lot of brutal violence.

In the end, I found a way out; I survived. But I ended up locked up in a refugee camp for years and years.

Now, I watch people across Europe welcoming Ukrainians fleeing the war into their homes. And I can’t help but wonder, how come no one showed me the same compassion? How come no one offered me a place to stay so that I wouldn’t be stuck in a refugee camp for a decade?

Many have argued those in the West welcomed Ukrainian refugees with open arms because they looked like them – and maybe this is true. But it does not mean it always has to be the case.

South Sudanese activist and writer Nhial Deng explains why he believes the war in Ukraine can be an opportunity for the world to learn to treat all refugees the same, no matter where they come from.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



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Sweden, Finland to send delegations to Turkey over NATO bids | NATO News

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NATO membership hopefuls seek to clear up differences with Ankara which opposes their application to join the alliance.

Sweden and Finland are sending delegations to Turkey, hoping to clear up Ankara’s opposition to their applications to join NATO, according to Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto.

“When we see the problems coming, of course, we take this diplomatically. We are sending our delegations to visit Ankara from both Sweden and Finland. This will happen tomorrow,” Haavisto told attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday.

Sweden and Finland applied to join the transatlantic alliance in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“We think that NATO is a group of 30 democratic countries with common values and very strong transatlantic cooperation, and this is what we are looking for at this moment,” Haavisto added.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and deputy foreign minister Sedat Onal will meet the Finnish and Swedish officials on Wednesday.

According to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, the Finnish delegation will be headed by the Finnish Permanent State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Jukka Salovaara and the Swedish officials will be led by Swedish State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Oscar Stenstrom.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by private broadcaster NTV that Ankara has prepared a “draft agreement” that will be the basis of the discussions.

Turkey, he said, wants “guarantees” that can be made in an official, signed agreement, not “wishes”.

NATO member Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring outlawed Kurdish fighters as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Muslim scholar accused of involvement in a failed 2016 coup.

Significant obstacle

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Saturday that Turkey would oppose membership for the two applicants unless its concerns were addressed – potentially a significant obstacle as a consensus is required in NATO decisions.

“We understand that Turkey has some of their own security concerns, such as terrorism,” Haavisto said.

“We think that we have good answers for those because we are also part of the fight against the terrorists. So, we think that this issue can be settled,” he added.

Analysts say Ankara may also be making a show of opposition to secure concessions from other NATO members, such as deliveries of fighter planes from the United States.

Haavisto said: “There might be also some issues that are not linked directly to Finland or Sweden, more to other NATO members or so forth, but I’m sure that in a good spirit, NATO can solve this issue.”



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Jailed Kashmir rights activist Khurram Parvez in Time’s 100 list | Human Rights News

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Kashmiri rights activist Khurram Parvez, jailed by India since November last year on “terrorism” charges, has been named as one of the 100 most influential people of 2022 by the United States-based Time magazine.

Parvez, 44, is chairman of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD) and coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a prominent rights group in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan who govern over parts of it but claim it in its entirety. Most residents on the Indian side either want an independent state or a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan.

An armed rebellion against New Delhi’s rule began in Indian-administered Kashmir in the late 1980s. To suppress the revolt, India deployed nearly half a million troops in the valley, making it one of the most militarised conflict zones in the world.

Global rights groups have accused the Indian forces of large-scale human rights abuses in the region, including killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, and the suppression of media and other fundamental rights.

For the last two decades, Parvez had been highlighting such abuses by the Indian forces and seeking accountability from the government.

One of the major disclosures made by the JKCCS, led by Parvez, was the presence of more than 2,000 unmarked graves in the northern part of Indian-administered Kashmir in 2008. The report shook the region.

“He had to be silenced, for his was a voice that resounded around the globe for his fierce fight against human-rights violations and injustices in the Kashmir region,” Time magazine said, calling Parvez a “modern-day David who gave a voice to families that lost their children to enforced disappearances, allegedly by the Indian state”.

“The attacks against him speak volumes of the truth he represents at a time when the world’s largest democracy is being called out for its persecution of the more than 200 million Indian Muslims,” said the citation, written by leading Indian journalist Rana Ayyub.

“Khurram is the story and the storyteller of the insurgency and the betrayal of the people of Kashmir.”

By “betrayal”, the magazine meant Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government stripping Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status guaranteed by the Indian constitution in a controversial move in 2019.

Parvez was arrested in November last year under a stringent terrorism law, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), for “criminal conspiracy and waging war against the government”.

The UAPA is vaguely worded legislation that effectively allows people to be held without trial indefinitely. Convictions under the law are rare.

The United Nations has issued multiple statements since Parvez’s arrest, demanding his release and amendments to the UAPA to bring it in line with the international human rights law and standards.

Parvez’s family said his appearance in the Time list “is a moment of pride for them” and “means a lot” to them.

“We are really proud of him. It shows his contribution in the two decades and the body of work that he created. These are the platforms that are acknowledging his work and offering us solidarity in such hard times,” one of Parvez’s family members told Al Jazeera, requesting anonymity over fears of reprisal by the Indian government.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera “it is extremely unfortunate that Indian authorities are jailing human rights defenders or peaceful protesters”.

“Parvez has worked to draw attention to human rights violations in Kashmir, and instead of addressing those allegations, the government is punishing him,” she said.

The Time 2022 list also includes Indian lawyer Karuna Nundy, business tycoon Gautam Adani, and Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial.



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