The UN Security Council approved Thursday a resolution for a 12,600 member peacekeeping force in Mali.
The force will eventually take over for the UN-supported African and French forces already in the West African nation, though remaining French troops may help fight insurgents.
Mali's Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly called the resolution and the formation of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), "an important step in a process to stem the activities of terrorist and rebel groups."
In January, France led a military offensive to drive out Al Qaeda-linked Islamic extremists who had seized Malian cities and other areas, including Timbuktu.
"This mission ... will be concentrated, amongst other things, on stabilizing the main urban centers in the North, restoring the authority of the state ... the protection of civilians, the promotion and protection of human rights as well as humanitarian assistance," Coulibaly said.
France began in April to withdraw most of its 4,000 troops, though about 1,000 soldiers will remain in country.
The BBC notes Mali's MINUSMA will be the third largest UN force in Africa, after the Democratic Republic of Congo and Darfur.
Mali intends to have elections in July, but that ambitious goal will depend on a number of factors in the coming months.
As one diplomat pointed out to Reuters, there's one vital "challenge" for the UN peacekeeping force. "It is unusual to launch a peacekeeping mission before there is a peace to keep."