Saudi-led coalition announces Yemen ceasefire.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen on Wednesday announced a nationwide ceasefire for two weeks starting on Thursday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The two weeks could also be extended, Spa said.

The decision came in response to a call from UN special envoy Martin Griffiths for an immediate ceasefire, coalition spokesman Col Turki Al Malki said.

It would to create “favorable conditions” for a UN-supervised meeting between the Yemeni government, the rebels and the coalition, Col Al Malki said.

The move was decided in part to avoid a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus in Yemen, where no cases have been reported so far, he said.

The UN and western allies have said a truce was urgent amid the threat of the coronavirus, as the Yemeni war has left millions vulnerable to disease.

Mr Griffiths welcomed the announcement and thanked Saudi Arabia 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.

The announcement is the first major breakthrough since the UN mediated talks in late 2018 in Sweden, where both sides signed a ceasefire for the port city of Hodeidah.

But it is unclear whether the Houthis will adhere to the coalition’s truce.

The parties are expected to convene in a video conference to discuss the proposal, which calls for halting all air, ground and naval hostilities.

A senior Saudi official said Riyadh hoped during the next two weeks that the UN Security Council would help to pressure the Houthis “to stop the hostilities”, join the ceasefire and begin serious engagement with the Yemeni government.

The Saudi-led military coalition has supported the internationally recognized government since 2015, when the Iran-backed rebels overran the capital, Sanaa.