Saudi-led coalition declares cease-fire in Yemen amid coronavirus | News | DW | 09.04.2020
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Saudi-led coalition declares cease-fire in Yemen amid coronavirus

The two-week cease-fire could pave the way for direct peace talks between the Saudi-backed Yemen government and the Houthi rebels, that have been at war for more than five years.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen declared a two-week cease-fire starting Thursday, in a bid to combat the deadly coronavirus pandemic.  

Announcing the unilateral cease-fire, the coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki on Wednesday said: "We are expecting the Houthis will accept. We are preparing the ground to fight COVID-19" in Yemen.

Read more: Houthis welcome Saudi support for cease-fire amid pandemic

There was no immediate response to from the Houthi rebels or the internationally recognized Yemen government.

First direct peace talks 

The cease-fire comes in response to a United Nations call to end hostilities in a bid to protect Yemeni civilians from the pandemic, Maliki said. The cease-fire could be extended if the Houthis responded "positively" to the announcement, he said. 

The cease-fire was also aimed at supporting the UN-led initiative to end the five-year war that has ravage the Arab world's poorest nation, the Saudi official said. 

It could pave the way for the warring sides to "to discuss proposals, steps, and mechanisms for sustainable cease-fire in Yemen... for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen," the Saudi official said.

The peace talks proposed would be the first face-to-face negotiations between the two sides since the war began in March 2015.

Read more: Yemen war marks 5 years with no end in sight

The war in Yemen has killed more than 100,000 people and left millions suffering from food and medical shortages. The UN has called the conflict in Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis. 

UN intervention

The UN's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the coalition's announcement, and called on the Yemen government "to follow through on their commitment to immediately cease hostilities." Guterres had recently called for a cease-fire of all global conflicts in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

"This can help to advance efforts towards peace as well as the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

Read more: Yemen: Has the suffering all been for nothing?

Fighting between the Houthis and the Riyadh-backed Yemeni forces had seen severe escalation in the past 10 days, with more than 270 people killed. 

Saudi Arabia to give $525 million aid 

The Saudi government will contribute $500 million to the UN's humanitarian response plan for Yemen, and $25 million help fight the spread of coronavirus, kingdom's vice defence minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman said.

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Yemen, but with the country's broken healthcare system, aids group believe when the virus does hit, its impact would be catastrophic.  

adi/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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