A man wears a protective face mask as he leaves a hospital which is allocated for coronavirus patients in preparation for any possible spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sanaa Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Saudi Arabia Thursday hoped that a temporary ceasefire announced by an Arab military alliance fighting Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen will lead to a permanent truce in the war-torn country.

On Wednesday, the alliance spearheaded by Saudi Arabia announced a renewable two-week ceasefire to clear the way for relaunching a UN-sponsored peace process between Yemen’s internationally recognised government and Al Houthi militias and focus on fighting the novel coronavirus in the impoverished country.

In recent weeks, UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has stepped up his efforts for a ceasefire in the country that has been roiled by a five-year war.

“We hope the ceasefire helps in facilitating the meeting called for by @OSE Yemen between representatives of the Yemeni Government, the Houthis and a military representative from the coalition to work with the UN on achieving a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire agreement,” Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir said Thursday.

”In line with the UN Secretary General’s call last month for a nationwide ceasefire and deescalation in Yemen, as well as the call to engage in direct negotiations between Yemeni parties to address the Coronavirus outbreak, the Coalition will start observing a two week ceasefire,” he added in a series of tweets. Saudi Arabia will contribute 500 million dollars to a UN humanitarian response in Yemen, in addition to 25 million dollars to fight the spread of the coronavirus there, according to Al Jubeir.

Spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Brig. Turki Al Maliki, Wednesday said that the ceasefire to be observed by the alliance starting Thursday is aimed at providing “favourable circumstances” for Griffiths’ call to hold a meeting between representatives of the Yemeni government and Al Houthis as well as a military team from the coalition to discuss mechanisms for applying a permanent ceasefire in Yemen.

He added that the alliance forces and the UN will support such steps with a view to reaching a “comprehensive and fair” political solution in Yemen.

A UN-brokered peace pact, reached between the Yemeni government and the rebels in December 2018, has been stymied over Al Houthis’ recalcitrance.

The coalition, co-led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia, has been fighting in Yemen against Al Houthis since March 2015 in response to a request from the country’s government.

The intervention came after Al Houthis advanced on the government’s seat of Adan in southern Yemen after they had seized the capital Sana’a.

In late 2014, the militants toppled the Yemeni government and overran parts of the country including Sana'a, triggering a devastating conflict in the country.