Coronavirus outbreak: Saudi-led coalition announces two-week ceasefire in Yemen

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting Yemen’s Huthi rebels has announced a two-week ceasefire in the country starting Thursday to avoid spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The unilateral ceasefire follows an escalation in fighting between the warring parties despite a call by the United Nations for an immediate cessation to protect civilians in the Arab world’s poorest nation from the pandemic.

The announcement, due to take effect from 0900 GMT Thursday, marks the first breakthrough since the warring parties agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire in the port city of Hodeida during talks in Sweden in late 2018.

“The coalition is determined… to support efforts towards combatting the spread of COVID-19 pandemic,” Turki al-Maliki, the military alliance’s spokesman, said on Wednesday.

“The coalition announces a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen for a period of two weeks, starting on Thursday.”

The two-week truce, which could be extended, was aimed at creating “appropriate conditions” for a UN-sponsored meeting between the warring parties to enable a “permanent ceasefire” in Yemen, Maliki added.

There was no immediate reaction from the Iran-aligned rebels.

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