Saudi Arabia’s official state news agency announced Wednesday a cease-fire starting Thursday, a step that could pave the way for the first direct peace talks between the two sides that have been at war for more than five years.
A Saudi military spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki said the ceasefire could be extended to pave the way for all the parties “to discuss proposals, steps, and mechanisms for sustainable ceasefire in Yemen … for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen.”
Al-Malki said the ceasefire was aimed at “building confidence” between the two warring parties and to support the United Nations-led initiative to end the war.
Within hours of the announcement, residents in the contested Yemeni province Marib said a suspected Houthi missile struck a security building in the city center. There was no immediate claim of responsibility or reports of casualties. A Yemeni presiderntial adviser, Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, blamed the Houthis, saying on Twitter that the attack shows the rebels “are fueling war not peace.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called for a cease-fire in all global conflicts on March 23 to tackle the virus, welcomed the announcement, saying: “This can help to advance efforts towards peace as well as the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Iran, which backs the Houthis, is also facing challenges at home. As the worst-hit country in the Middle East, it has 67,286 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,993 deaths.