Responding to the United Nations secretary-general’s request in March 2020 for a cease-fire to focus on COVID-19, U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths led separate talks with the warring parties in Yemen.
The Saudi-led Arab Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen answered the United Nations’ call and declared a unilateral cease-fire in Yemen in early April 2020. The breather allowed Yemenis to mobilize their assets to combat COVID-19 and prepare talks with the Houthi rebels to end the conflict in Yemen.
A Saudi official announced that the two-week cease-fire “may be extended if the Houthis respond positively,” but stressed that the coalition “has the right to defend itself if attacked.”
Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki al-Maliki said the cease-fire opens a window to lasting peace, adding that the truce aims to “create the conditions for a meeting between the legitimate government of Yemen, the Houthis and a military team from the coalition with mediation of the U.N. envoy.”
The World Health Organization expressed fears that the virus would descend upon a Yemen devastated by years of unrelenting war. Shortages of medical supplies, clean drinking water and proper sanitation increase the risks of infection.
Yemen’s civil war started in 2014 when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital of Sanaa, demanding a new government. In March 2015, a coalition of Arabian Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia launched a campaign of airstrikes against the Houthi rebels to restore Yemen’s legitimate government. Death toll estimates from five years of conflict have reached 100,000.
Sources: Council on Foreign Relations, CNN