A two-week ceasefire in Yemen, which was announced by the Arab Coalition, went into effect at midday Thursday.
“The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition supported the Yemeni government’s decision to accept the United Nations Secretary General's call for a ceasefire in Yemen in order to counter the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said earlier.
The move aims to facilitate talks sponsored by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths for a permanent ceasefire, and was decided in part to avoid a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus, though no cases have been reported so far, al-Malki said.
The ceasefire is open to extension to pave the way for all the parties “to discuss proposals, steps, and mechanisms for sustainable ceasefire in Yemen ... for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called for a ceasefire in all global conflicts on March 23 to tackle the virus and specifically called two days later for a cessation in Yemen, welcomed the announcement, saying: “This can help to advance efforts towards 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 nation-wide 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,” Guterres said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths also welcomed the Coalition's unilateral ceasefire announcement.
“I am grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Coalition for recognizing and acting on this critical moment for Yemen. The parties must now utilize this opportunity and cease immediately all hostilities with the utmost urgency, and make progress towards comprehensive and sustainable peace,” he said in a statement.
The United Arab Emirates also applauded the Coalition’s move as "wise and responsible".
"Hope the Houthis rise to the occasion. The COVID-19 crisis eclipses everything -- the international community must step up efforts & work together to protect the Yemeni people," UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted.
"It is an important decision that must be built on, on both humanitarian and political levels," he added.