Arab coalition announces two-week ceasefire in Yemen

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the ceasefire may be extended after two weeks. (AFP/File)
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Updated 09 April 2020

Arab coalition announces two-week ceasefire in Yemen

  • Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the ceasefire may be extended after two weeks
  • Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of defense urges Houthis to also support the ceasefire call

RIYADH: The Arab coalition fighting to restore the legitimate Yemeni government has announced a two-week ceasefire in Yemen which will start at midday on Thursday (local time), Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said the coalition “supported the Yemeni government’s decisions to accept the call of the United Nation's secretary-general for a ceasefire in Yemen to face the consequences of the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the invitation of the

Mohamed AlJabir, Saudi Ambassador to Yemen, said the ceasefire is meant to pave the way for representatives of the Yemeni government, Houthis and a Coalition military team to discuss  the UN envoy's proposals for a permanent ceasefire in Yemen and confidence-building measures.

UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths, for a ceasefire and a de-escalation, and to take practical steps to build confidence between the two parties in a humanitarian and economic aspect."Griffiths welcomed the coalition's unilateral ceasefire announcement.

“I am grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Arab Coalition for recognizing and acting on this critical moment for Yemen. The parties must now utilize this opportunity and cease immediately all hostilities with the utmost urgency, and make progress towards comprehensive and sustainable peace,” he said in a statement issued by his office in Amman, Jordan. Al-Maliki said that due to the seriousness and desire of the coalition to "create appropriate conditions to conclude and succeed the efforts of the UN envoy to Yemen and to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people and work to confront the coronavirus pandemic and prevent it from spreading," the coalition announced a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen for a period of two weeks, starting from 12 p.m. on Thursday.

This period, he added, is extendable with the aim of creating conditions for implementing Griffith's invitation to hold a meeting between the legitimate government and the Iran-backed Houthi militia, and a military team from the coalition under the UN envoy's supervision to discuss his proposals on steps and mechanisms to implement a permanent ceasefire In Yemen, steps to build human and economic confidence, and the resumption of the political process between the Yemeni parties to reach consultations between towards a comprehensive political solution.

Col. Al-Maliki added that the coalition is looking for an opportunity to join all efforts to reach a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire in Yemen, and agree on serious, concrete and direct steps to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people and will greatly support all these basic steps with the UN, in order to reach a comprehensive and just political solution agreed by the Yemenis.

Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's deputy minister of defense, said the two-week ceasefire "will hopefully create a more effective climate to de-escalate tensions."

It will give the parties a chance to work with the UN envoy in Yemen in carrying out steps to ease the suffering of Yemenis and protect them from the spreading COVID-19 disease, he said.

"The Kingdom has always been committed to reaching a comprehensive political settlement in Yemen and based on our responsibility to bring stability to the region at such a critical time, the Coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen has declared a two-week long ceasefire initiative," Prince Khalid tweeted.

Yemen has no reported COVID-19 cases so far, but is feared to be particularly vulnerable to an outbreak in view of its weak health care system and high incidence of poverty and malnutrition.

To help the Yemenis, Saudi Arabia will contribute $500 Million to the UN Humanitarian Response Plan for the country in 2020, plus $25 million to help combat the #COVID19 pandemic, Prince Khalid said on Wednesday.

"It is up to Houthis to put the health and safety of the Yemeni people above all else," he said.

Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, expressed hope that the two-week ceasefire will facilitate direct talks called by the UN envoy to Yemen between the Yemeni government representatives, the Houthis and military representatives from the coalition to work with the United Nations for a "comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement".

In a tweet, Al-Jubeir also said the Kingdom's $525 million for Yemen is a continuation of the economic and humanitarian aid it had been giving to its southern neighbor.

"KSA has supported Yemen for decades, increasing its economic and humanitarian aid to end the suffering of Yemenis since the beginning of the crisis," he said in a tweet.

 


Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Updated 26 May 2020

Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

  • Curfew to be eased on Sunday, except in Makkah, as domestic travel permitted
  • All curfews in Saudi Arabia to be lifted by June 20

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced the easing of restrictions that has halted much of the activity in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday 31, May, the curfew on all areas of the Kingdom will be eased, except Makkah. Movement in cities and within the regions of the country will again be permitted, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The easing will mean the Kingdom’s 24-hour lockdown is relaxed with a curfew from 3 p.m to 6 a.m until Sunday, after which the hours will change to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.. Makkah will remain under a full 24-hour lockdown.

On June 21, all curfews in the Kingdom will be lifted and prayers at Makkah’s mosque will be permitted.

Before then, social distancing guidelines must continue to be adhered to and gatherings of more than 50 people will continue to be banned.

Authorities have also allowed the attendance at ministries, government agencies and private sector companies, and the return of their office activities.

Some economic and commercial activities will also be allowed to take place including those at wholesale and retail shops, as well as malls. Cafes will be permitted to operate once more.

However, all job sectors where social distancing rules are harder to achieve such as beauty salons, barbershops, sports and health clubs, recreational centers and cinemas will remain closed.

Umrah pilgrimage and international flights will continue to be suspended until further notice.

The new rules are subject to constant evaluation at the health ministry and can be changed if the situation warrants it.

Earlier, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the health minister, said: “The phases start gradually until we return to normalcy, with its new concept based on social distancing.” 

He added that the precautionary steps taken by the Kingdom early in the outbreak helped to limit the spread of the virus. 

Now, he said, the ministry has developed a plan for the next phase that relies on two main factors: The capacity of the health care system to cope with critical cases, and the expansion of testing to identify new infections as soon as possible.

Reassuring the Saudi nation on Monday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “The bad conditions will pass, God willing, and we are heading toward the good, God willing.” 

The Kingdom recorded 2,235 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, taking the total to 74,795, and the death toll rose by nine to 399. Worldwide the virus has infected more than 5.5 million people and killed nearly 350,000.