On April 08, 2020, in a statement of Saudi Arabia’s state news agency, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, announced that its forces would begin a cease-fire starting with April 09.
In the statement, the spokesman of Saudi Arabia’s state news agency, Col. Turki al-MALKI, said that the ceasefire would last two weeks and that it comes in response to U.N. calls to stop hostilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He said that the ceasefire could be extended on the way for both parts “to discuss proposals, steps, and mechanisms for sustainable ceasefire in Yemen … for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen”.
There was no immediate reaction from Houthi leaders of Yemen’s internationally recognized government to the coalition’s statement.
Abdel-Malek al-MEKHLAFI, the Yemeni presidential adviser, blamed the Houthis, saying on Twitter that the attack shows the rebels “are fuelling war not peace”.
Within hours of the announcement, residents in the contested Yemeni province Marib said a suspected Houthi missile struck a security building in the city center. There was no immediate claim of responsibility or reports of casualties.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio GUTERRES, who called for a cease-fire in all global conflicts on March 23 to tackle the virus and specifically called also for a cessation in Yemen, said: “This can help to advance efforts towards peace as well as the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
He called on Yemen’s government, which is backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Houthis “to follow through on their commitment to immediately cease hostilities” and to start with each other without preconditions the negotiations facilitated by Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen.
GUTERRES said then that the world faces “a common enemy COVID-19”, which doesn’t care “about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith”.
The war has proved costly for Saudi Arabia and has damaged its image abroad. Saudi Arabia is engaged in an international price war over the cost of oil, has increased production to try to take back market share from Russia and the US. Saudi Arabia is also battling the coronavirus outbreak, with 2,932 confirmed cases and 41 deaths;
The talks proposed by Al-MALKI would be the first face-to-face peace negotiations among the Saudis, Houthis, and government since the war started.
Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation, has been convulsed by civil war since 2014. That is when the Houthis took control of the country’s north, including the capital of Sanaa.
The Saudi-led military coalition intervened against the Houthis the following year, conducting relentless airstrikes and a blockade of Yemen.
In the past, Houthis and Saudis had informal and secretive talks that took place inside Saudi Arabia and Oman but both sides blamed the failure on manipulation by Saudi Arabia or Iran.
The conflict has killed over 100,000 people and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Authorities in Yemen have yet to announce a confirmed case of the coronavirus but the experts fear that the virus could eventually prove deadly after the devastation of the years of war.
This article was edited using the data from the Herald Tribune, Apnews, and HuffPost.
Source of the photo: Apnews.com.