In a statement released this afternoon, Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said the Secretary-General commended Malian stakeholders for “the progress achieved to date” and expressed his gratitude to both Algeria, for hosting the peace process, and members of the international community for their “dedicated efforts in support of the resolution of the conflict.”“The initialling on 1 March in Algiers of a draft agreement on peace and reconciliation in Mali by the Government of Mali and the Plateforme coalition of armed groups is an important step forward,” said the statement. “The political will and ownership of all Malian parties is essential for sustainable peace.”The Government in Mali 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. Addressing journalists in Geneva last week, Jens Laerke, from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 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.The UN spokesperson declared the Organization’s continued commitment to supporting Malians in their search for peace, security, justice and development through the “full and timely implementation of a future agreement” and said Mr. Ban called on all parties “to engage to reach a final settlement.” Also today, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Major General Michael Lollesgard of Denmark as the new MINUSMA Force Commander.Mr. Lollesgard succeeds Major General Jean Bosco Kazura of Rwanda to whom Mr. Ban expressed his gratitude for his “dedicated and exemplary service during his tenure.”According to the UN spokesperson’s office, Mr. Lollesgard brings to his new role 30 years of national and international experience including deployments in peace support operations in the Balkans and Iraq.