Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced that the kingdom and its allies would observe a unilateral cease-fire in the war in Yemen starting at noon on Thursday, a move that could pave the way for ending the brutal five-year-old conflict, The New York Times reported.
Saudi officials said that the cease-fire was intended to jump-start peace talks brokered by the United Nations and that it had been motivated by fears of the coronavirus spreading in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world.
According to the Times, the move is the first by any government entangled in an international armed conflict to halt hostilities at least in part because of the pandemic. The secretary general of the United Nations, António Guterres, pleaded for a worldwide cease-fire two weeks ago, citing the pandemic.
As many as 150 members of the Saudi royal family are believed to have contracted the coronavirus, including members of the family’s lesser branches, according to a person close to the family, the Times adds.
The senior Saudi who is the governor of Riyadh, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is in intensive care with Covid-19, according to two doctors with ties to the King Faisal hospital and two others close to the royal family. Prince Faisal is a nephew of King Salman.
King Salman, 84, has secluded himself in an island palace near the city of Jeddah on the Red Sea. His son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the 34-year old de facto ruler, has retreated with many of his ministers to the remote site on the same coast.
While Yemen is one of the few countries in the world yet to have a confirmed case of Covid-19, aid workers fear that an outbreak there would be devastating.