In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he was “deeply saddened” by the deaths of the peacekeepers from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). He condemned the attack, which took place in Ber in the region of Timbuktu. Any criminal acts against UN personnel will not be tolerated. “Such attacks will not deter the United Nations from its efforts to support the Malian people in their search for peace in their country,” Mr. Ban declared. He expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the peacekeepers who were killed and wished a full and speedy recovery to those who were injured. Earlier this week, in two separate incidents, three other UN peacekeepers were wounded by mine explosions in Northern Mali. Despite initial security improvements in 2013, the situation in Northern Mali has deteriorated since the beginning of this year. An increase in incidents involving improvised explosive devices, mostly targeting Malian and international security forces, has impeded the return to normalcy and resumption of economic and development activities. The first phase of the inter-Malian negotiation process, which was held from 16 to 24 July in Algiers, aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement which would end the crisis. It concluded with the adoption of a roadmap by all parties. The second phase of peace talks is scheduled to be held in Algiers on 17 August. In July, the Security Council underscored the importance of an “inclusive and credible negotiation process open to all communities of the north of Mali.” The goal must be to secure a durable political resolution to the crisis and long-term peace and stability, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Malian State. The 15-member body called on all parties to fully respect the ceasefire agreement signed in May, as well as the declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities signed in Algiers. Meanwhile, UN humanitarian agencies have warned that the food insecurity crisis in Africa’s Sahel region could be exacerbated by terrorism, weak governance and recurrent droughts. Funding gaps were delaying interventions that could prevent the food security situation from worsening. The precarious security situation in the Sahel, and specifically in Mali, is further compounded by the region’s extreme poverty and refugees fleeing ongoing conflict in neighbouring Central African Republic and Nigeria. Clashes in northern Mali have also generated new displacements to the south of the country as well as to neighbouring countries. The Sahel region stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes Mali, as well as Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and parts of Sudan, Cameroon and Nigeria.