The U.N. peacekeeping chief urged Mali’s government Tuesday to do everything possible to hold presidential elections on schedule in mid-July.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Security Council that last week’s adoption of a timeline for the government, Tuareg separatists and armed groups to implement a June 2015 peace agreement by the end of March was an important step.

He said this should lead to progress on a host of issues, including reforming the security sector and establishing security conditions for the presidential vote as well as local and regional elections in April.

“It’s urgent that we confront the fact that we’re racing against time in Mali,” Lacroix said. “We are confronting increasing insecurity which has cost the lives, unfortunately, of hundreds of civilians in the north and center of the country as well as dozens of elements of defense forces” from Mali, the U.N. and France.

Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the country’s president of a decade. The power vacuum that was created ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013. But insurgents remain active in the region.


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