In a statement issued by the UN spokesperson’s office today, Mr. Ban applauded the signing of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in the Malian capital, Bamako, and congratulated the parties and the Algeria-led Mediation Team for their efforts in producing a “balanced text.” “The Secretary-General notes that today’s signature by some of the parties is an important step on the path towards sustainable peace,” the statement continued. “He conveys his sincere hope that other parties to the Algiers political process will adhere to the Agreement as soon as possible.”Moreover, it added that Mr. Ban reminded all parties that the 23 May 2014 ceasefire remains valid and that he urges them “to honour their commitments in this regard.”Despite positive developments on the ground, the situation in Mali has long remained a challenge. The country’s Government has been seeking to restore stability and rebuild following a series of setbacks since early 2012, including a military coup d’état, renewed fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the seizure of its northern territory by radical Islamists.Throughout much of this time, Mali’s north has remained restive and, in recent months, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) and its “blue helmets” have come under repeated violent attack.In addition, the country has been consumed by a series of humanitarian crises. Jens Laerke, from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), recently noted that at the peak of the crisis, more than 500,000 people had left the north of Mali to seek refuge in the south or in neighbouring countries. Although nearly 400,000 had already returned, they continued to face challenges in restarting their lives as communities had become more vulnerable, livelihoods had deteriorated, and social services were working only partially, especially in rural areas.At the same time, Mali continued to face a high level of food insecurity and malnutrition – a problem affecting countries throughout Africa’s Sahel region. According to UN estimates, nearly 2.6 million people in Mali, or 15 per cent of the total population, will suffer from food insecurity this year while more than one in 10 children would be affected by acute malnutrition.According to the UN spokesperson, Mr. Ban “firmly believes” that the Agreement is “a strong basis on which to build a just and lasting peace in Mali” and noted that the Secretary-General calls on all parties “to continue dialogue in view of securing the signature of all parties as soon as possible.”The Assistant Secretary General for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Herve Ladsous, was present at the signing ceremony of the agreement in Bamako.Delivering a message on behalf of the Secretary-General he stressed that the accord was “an excellent basis for further inter-Malian peace process,” even as he noted that the a party to the conflict was not present at the ceremony.However, the fact that only some of the parties had signed the agreement today should not serve as a pretext for the resumption of military operations against non-signatories, he continued in his message.”The weeks and months ahead will tell us if the parties have the courage to take the actions required for the establishment of trust, rallying all Malians behind the peace agreement and the full implementation of this agreement,” he said.