Hopes for peace in Yemen as Riyadh calls for truce

Middle East Desk

ADEN: A nationwide ceasefire in response to the global coronavirus outbreak went into effect in Yemen on Thursday, stirring hope for an end to the five-year-old war that has pushed millions to the brink of famine.
A Saudi-led coalition fighting against Yemen’s Houthi movement announced overnight it would halt military operations from 0900 GMT for two weeks in support of United Nations efforts to end the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people.
The Houthi leadership has yet to announce whether the Iran-aligned movement, which controls the capital Sanaa and most major urban centres in Yemen, would follow suit in what would be the first major breakthrough in peace efforts since late 2018. The coalition said its move aims to facilitate talks sponsored by U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths for a permanent truce, motivated in part to avoid a potential outbreak of the new coronavirus, though no cases have been reported so far in Yemen.
“We are tired of the war. We want it to stop for good,” said 49-year-old Abd al-Basset Muhammad, who owns a juice shop in the southern port of Aden, interim headquarters of the Saudi-backed government. “If the war hasn’t already killed you, you are dying of hunger or disease,” he told reporters.
The conflict, widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in military stalemate for years. Riyadh last year took over most of the costly and unpopular military campaign after key coalition partner the United Arab Emirates significantly scaled down its presence.
A Houthi official said on Wednesday that the group had sent the United Nations a proposal calling for an end to the war and what it describes as a coalition blockade. The coalition, which patrols the coast, denies imposing a blockade and says it aims to halt import of weapons. “We want to live to learn. If coronavirus appears, Yemen will be facing an unprecedented catastrophe”.