Saudi-led coalition announces unilateral ceasefire in Yemen

Sanaa, April 9 : The Saudi-United Arab Emirates (UAE) coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen said that it would cease hostilities for two weeks.

The halt to military operations is set to take effect at 12 p.m. on Thursday, Saudi state news agency SPA reported, citing coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki, who said the aim of the move was "to create the appropriate conditions" for the truce proposed by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths amid fears that the coronavirus pandemic will take hold in the war-torn nation, reports Efe news.

Yemen is the poorest nation in the Arab world and after five years of conflict, around 80 per cent of its 30 million people depend on humanitarian aid for their survival.

Once the ceasefire is in place, Al-Malki said, the door will be open to talks among the Houthis, the internationally recognized Yemeni government of Abdo Rabu Mansur Hadi and the Saudi-UAE coalition to be chaired by Griffiths.

Al-Malki said that the Saudi-UAE coalition also acted in response to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' appeal on March 23 for a global ceasefire in the face of the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 73,000 people around the world.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, a member of the Houthi political council, said that the rebels would not accept "partial or patchwork solutions".

The council has already conveyed to Griffiths a comprehensive proposal that envisions "a full cease-fire and lifting of the blockade", Al-Houthi said.

A spokesman for the Houthis, Mohammed Abdulsalam, said on Twitter on Wednesday that the rebels' plan would "lay the foundations for a political dialogue and a transitional period".

Hailing the decision by the Saudi-UAE coalition, Griffiths urged all sides to "utilize this opportunity and cease immediately all hostilities with the utmost urgency, and make progress towards comprehensive and sustainable peace".

Also responding to the announcement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said "This can help to advance efforts toward peace as well as the country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Only through dialogue will the parties be able to agree on a mechanism for sustaining a nationwide ceasefire, humanitarian and economic confidence-building measures to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, and the resumption of the political process to reach a comprehensive settlement to end the conflict, said Guterres.

March 25 was the fifth anniversary of the Riyadh-led military intervention to re-instate the Hadi government, ousted by the Houthis in December 2014.

More than 100,000 people have perished in the conflict, many of them civilians, and the UN describes the situation in Yemen as the world's most acute humanitarian crisis.
(IANS)

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Saudi-led coalition announces unilateral ceasefire in Yemen