4 May 2011As the rival political parties Hamas and Fatah sign a unity agreement today in Cairo, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly appealed to Palestinian parties to commit to the principles of the Road Map that seeks to have two States – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security. Last week representatives of Hamas and Fatah announced that they struck a deal, under the auspices of Egypt, to form a national unity government and hold elections within a year. Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after ousting the Fatah party of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that controls parts of the West Bank. In a statement issued last night by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban voiced his support for efforts for unity and the work of Egypt and Mr. Abbas in this regard.“He wishes to see unity in the framework of the positions of the Quartet and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab Peace Initiative,” the statement said. “The Secretary-General therefore strongly appeals to all Palestinian parties to commit to these principles.”Under the Road Map peace plan endorsed by the Quartet – comprising the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States – Israel and an independent State of Palestine established on territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War would live side by side in peace and security within recognized borders.The Secretary-General sent the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, to the Egyptian capital for today’s signing. Mr. Serry stated last week that reconciliation between the two main Palestinian factions is essential for achieving a two-state solution and should take place in a manner that promotes the cause of peace.Talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been stalled since late September following Israel’s refusal to extend a 10-month freeze on settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory. That decision prompted Mr. Abbas to withdraw from direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which had only resumed a few weeks earlier after a two-year hiatus.