When asked why the Saudis would suddenly propose, after five years of war, a national ceasefire, Elana DeLozier, a researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who studies Yemen, attributed it to the pandemic.
“The coronavirus is the answer,” she said. “The coronavirus scared everyone in Yemen.”
She called the Saudi announcement “the greatest concession and the greatest measure of confidence that the Saudis have granted since the start of the war.”
And the Saudis seemed to use it as a way to assess the Houthis’ willingness to negotiate.
“It really is a test case,” she said.
This meant that the immediate success of the ceasefire would largely depend on respect by the Houthis, whose leaders did not immediately respond to the Saudi announcement.
Their forces have made gains against Yemeni forces backed by Saudi Arabia in recent months, which may make them hesitant to make concessions. But they might see the benefits of engaging in a peace process, if they feel it recognizes the power they acquired during the war.
Saudi officials said the Yemeni government, most of whose officials live in Riyadh at kingdom expense, had also accepted the ceasefire, but no Yemeni officials were on a conference call with journalists to announce the ceasefire -fire.