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UN hails ceasefires amid coronavirus crisis

The United Nations, which had urged a global ceasefire in the face of the coronavirus crisis, on Thursday hailed armed groups in Cameroon, the Philippines and Yemen for heeding the call.

A worker fumigates a neighbourhood in Yemen's Huthi rebel-held capital Sanaa as part of safety precautions during the coronavirus pandemic on March 23

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffith, said he was "heartened" to see positive responses from both the government and Huthi rebels.

"I expect the parties to adhere to their words and put the interest of the Yemeni people above all," Griffith said in a statement, calling for an "urgent meeting" on how to put their commitments into practice.

The civil war in Yemen, which has dragged on for more than five years, pits the Iran-aligned Huthis against government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

Experts say that the conflict has created the worse humanitarian crisis in the world.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued the ceasefire call Monday in a bid to protect civilians in war-ravaged countries like Yemen and Syria -- largely spared so far by the virus -- whose barely functioning health care systems could not handle its spread.

In Cameroon, separatists in two mainly English-speaking regions have been fighting the government in the majority French-speaking central African country for three years in a war that has left more than 3,000 people dead, many of them civilians.

"We welcome the temporary ceasefire announced by the Southern Cameroons Defense Force," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at his weekly press briefing in New York.

"The Secretary-General calls on other armed groups to do likewise."

That group issued its temporary ceasefire call on Wednesday, but the conflict involves a multitude of groups, and their representatives -- some of whom live abroad -- are not always in close touch with those on the ground.

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Guterres called for "renewed dialogue" in Cameroon "that will put an end to the violence and human suffering," Dujarric said.

In the Philippines, the UN said the armed wing of the Communist Party, which is fighting to overthrow the Manila government, had announced a temporary ceasefire on Tuesday.

Guterres "hopes that this will serve as an example across the world to silence the guns and come together as we face the global threat of COVID-19," Dujarric said.

prh/dw-sst/ch

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