April 8 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia on Wednesday announced a two-week cease-fire in the Yemeni civil war amid fears of the coronavirus spreading in the region.
The halt in violence is scheduled to begin at noon Thursday.
Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Arab countries supporting the government of President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. The fighting has been ongoing for five years, and The New York Times reported the cease-fire could signal a path toward ending the conflict.
"The coalition announces a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen for a period of two weeks, starting on Thursday ... which can be extended in order to create the appropriate conditions to implement the invitation of the U.N. special envoy for Yemen to hold a meeting between the legitimate government and the Houthis," the Saudi coalition said in a statement.
A spokesman for the coalition, Col. Turki al-Maliki, told Al Arabiya that the coalition hopes the Houthis will comply with the cease-fire.
"A political solution is the best solution to the crisis in Yemen. We started our own measures to counter the coronavirus pandemic in Yemen. The humanitarian effort of the coalition in Yemen exceeds its military effort there," he said.
Aid workers fear an outbreak of COVID-19 could be devastating for Yemen, which is already dealing with a humanitarian crisis due to the civil war. Famine and a cholera epidemic have plagued the nation in recent years.
There have so far been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Yemen.