Houthi presence in Sana’a affecting Yemen’s territorial security: Transport Minister

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Houthi movement’s control of the capital Sana’a has significantly deteriorated Yemen’s ability to secure its borders, Yemeni Transport Minister Badr Mubarak Ba-Salma said.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Ba-Salma, who was appointed earlier this month following the agreement of a new cabinet, said: “One of the biggest problems that we are facing is securing our maritime, aerial and territorial borders.” Ba-Salma attributed the decision by some airlines, including Emirates and Etihad, to cancel flights to Sana’a to the ongoing Houthi presence in the capital.

Yemen’s Transport Minister confirmed that the lack of security and stability in Yemen, particularly in the capital, is negatively impacting his ministry’s ability to carry out its duties, particularly its ability to monitor local and international traffic and transportation.

Yemen’s Houthis took over Sana’a in September following disputes with the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Although an agreement resolving the dispute was signed between Hadi and the Houthis and a new prime minister and government have since been appointed, the Shi’ite militia remains in control of the capital and is advancing across other areas of Yemen.

“This [Houthi occupation of Sana’a] led to many airliners stopping flights to Sana’a on the pretext that the Yemeni state was not in control of its own security and that unofficial militias were in control of the airport and other vital areas of the capital,” Ba-Salma said.

Yemen’s new Transport Minister stressed that he is doing everything in his power to restore international confidence in Yemen’s transportation security, adding that he expects Gulf and Arab air carriers that cancelled flights to Sana’a to resume a normal service to Sana’a early next year.

Sana’a signed agreements-in-principle to regulate and exchange air transport services with seven European and African countries earlier this month, state news agency SABA reported.

The agreements were signed with Austria, Greece, Malta, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Poland and Burundi on the sidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Air Services Negotiation Event (ICAN2014) which concluded in the Indonesian city of Bali on November 21.

Ba-Salma informed Asharq Al-Awsat that his ministry is not just facing issues with regard to Yemen’s airspace, but also concerning the country’s maritime security. “[Maritime] insurance companies have raised their prices and this has become prohibitively costly, resulting in many international shipping companies now being reluctant to pass through or make port in Yemen, particularly at the port of Aden,” he said.

He called on Yemen’s security authorities, particularly the Interior and Defense ministries, to do more to secure the country’s territory, adding that this lack of security is significantly affecting Yemen’s economy.

Ba-Salma called for Houthi militiamen to withdraw from vital government security installations and allow Yemen’s legitimate security authorities to work unimpeded. “The administration of security at Yemen’s airports and seaports is the government’s responsibility.”