Saudi-UAE coalition declares 2-week unilateral ceasefire in Yemen

The Saudi-UAE coalition fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels has declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The suspension of the coalition’s military operations is expected to go into effect at 12pm local time (09:00 GMT) on Thursday and last for two weeks, Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency SPA quoted coalition spokesperson Colonel Turki al-Malki as saying.

The announcement came days after the United Nations called for a halt in hostilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

SPA said on Wednesday that the ceasefire is intended to help prevent a coronavirus outbreak in Yemen, while also allowing for a de-escalation in the fighting. It was also aimed at giving the Houthis an opportunity to join UN-sponsored talks on a settlement to the conflict.

There was no immediate comment by the Houthis.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, spokesman of the Houthi movement, earlier said the group sent to the UN a comprehensive vision which includes an end to the five-year war and to “the blockade” imposed on Yemen.

“[Our proposal] will lay the foundations for a political dialogue and a transitional period,” Abdulsalam said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

Last week, UN special envoy Martin Griffiths sent a proposal to the internationally recognised government, the Saudi-UAE military coalition that supports it and the Houthi movement that controls the capital, Sanaa, and most of northern Yemen. 

The proposal called for a nationwide ceasefire, including halting all air, ground and naval hostilities, and for the parties to ensure compliance by forces on front lines.

The UN and Western allies have been pointing to the threat of coronavirus to push Yemen’s combatants to agree to fresh talks to end a war that has left millions vulnerable to disease.

Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Houthis toppled the government from power in Sanaa in late 2014.

The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and unleashed an urgent humanitarian crisis that has pushed millions to the verge of famine and forced thousands to seek shelter in displacement camps.

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