UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. envoy for Mali urged people in the West African nation, who just lived through another military coup, to use a recently agreed to 18-month transition "to pull their country out of the hellish cycle" of coups that has left the country in crisis.

Mahamat Saleh Annadif told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that "the transition's success is within reach, and the ball remains in the court of the Malian people."

Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the president. The power vacuum that resulted ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013. But insurgents remain active and extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali since 2015, stoking animosity and violence between ethnic groups in the region.

Annadif's briefing was the first to the council since the Aug. 18 coup which deposed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and detained him along with the prime minister and other government officials. The West African regional economic bloc, ECOWAS, responded by imposing sanctions that closed borders to Mali and stopped financial flows to put pressure on the junta to quickly return to a civilian government.

Days of national consultation led to the adoption of a transition charter and the appointment of a retired colonel major as president, the junta leader as vice-president, and a former foreign minister and U.N. ambassador as prime minister. That led to the lifting of ECOWAS sanctions.

But there has been widespread concern that the upheaval in Mali will set back efforts to contain the country's growing Islamic insurgency.

"The country is going through a critical moment in its history," Annadif said. "The year 2020 in Mali has been marked by tumult on several fronts and a climate of political uncertainty."

He said Mali had no government for four months, and challenges have increased, mainly from COVID-19 and its social and economic repercussions and delays in implementing a 2015 peace agreement and national reconciliation.

Nonetheless, Annadif said the formation of the new government and the lifting of sanctions should lead to quick establishment of a new transitional legislative body.

He said political, institutional, electoral and administrative reforms are essential to ensure credible elections that "will allow the return of constitutional order."

The U.N. envoy said the transitional government is the first since the 2015 peace agreement to include all its signatories, calling their inclusion "highly symbolic" and potentially significant.

France's U.N. Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere encouraged the new authorities "to lay the foundations for institutional reform" and "build a stronger and more legitimate democracy, in accordance with the expectations expressed by the Malian people."

He stressed three priorities for the coming months: continuing the fight against terrorism, resuming implementation of the 2015 peace agreement, and stabilizing the center of Mali.

De Riviere said France will propose a presidential statement for adoption by the Security Council in the coming days so its members can monitor the transition very carefully, and ensure that these priorities and the Transition Charter are carried out in the coming weeks and months.

Mali's U.N. Ambassador Issa Konfourou told the council that civilian and military figures arrested and detained in connection with the Aug. 18 coup were released on Wednesday.

In light of the current situation, he assured all of Mali's partners that the transitional authorities "remain determined to uphold all commitments, both national and international." And he said he wanted to "unequivocally reiterate the determination of the transitional authorities to tirelessly pursue the rigorous implementation of the (2015) peace and reconciliation agreement in Mali.