Coronavirus threat presents ceasefire chance for five-year Yemen war

The announcement is the first major breakthrough since the United Nations convened the warring parties in late 2018 in Sweden, where they signed a ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

But it is unclear if the armed Houthi movement will follow suit. Spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said they had sent the United Nations a comprehensive vision that includes an end to the war and to “the blockade” imposed on Yemen.

Yemeni Shiite Houthis protest against US President Donald Trump in Sanaa, Yemen, in January.

Yemeni Shiite Houthis protest against US President Donald Trump in Sanaa, Yemen, in January. Credit:AP

“[Our proposal] will lay the foundations for a political dialogue and a transitional period,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

Hours after the coalition announcement, Yemen’s information minister said the Houthis had targeted Hodeidah and the central city of Marib with missiles, while Houthi media said coalition strikes hit Hajja and Saada provinces.

Last week, UN envoy Griffiths sent a proposal to the internationally-recognised government, the Saudi-led coalition that supports it, and the Houthis – who control the capital Sanaa and most of northern Yemen.

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Griffiths welcomed the ceasefire and called on warring parties to “utilise this opportunity and cease immediately all hostilities with the utmost urgency, and make progress towards comprehensive and sustainable peace.”

A senior Saudi official, speaking to reporters in Washington, said Riyadh hoped during the next two weeks that the US Security Council would help pressure the Houthis “to stop the hostilities”, join the ceasefire “and also to be serious in such engagement with the Yemeni government”.

The UN and Western allies have pointed to the threat of the coronavirus to push Yemen’s combatants to agree to fresh talks to end a war that has left millions vulnerable to disease. The United States and Britain have provided the coalition with arms, intelligence and logistics support.

Yemen had witnessed a lull in military action after Saudi Arabia and the Houthis began back-channel talks late last year. But a recent spike in violence, including ballistic missiles fired towards Riyadh last month and retaliatory coalition air strikes, threatens fragile peace deals in vital port cities.

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Yemen, already the Arab world’s poorest country, has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the government from power in Sanaa in late 2014.

The conflict, largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and regional arch-foe Iran, has unleashed an urgent humanitarian crisis that has pushed millions to the verge of famine, forced millions more to seek shelter in displacement camps and sparked outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria.

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Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/middle-east/coronavirus-threat-presents-ceasefire-chance-for-five-year-yemen-war-20200409-p54ily.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world