Sudan's transitional government and rebel leaders on Monday began peace talks to end years-long insurgencies in the country.
The peace initiative was built into a power-sharing deal between Sudan's army and its pro-democracy movement that was reached after the overthrow of long-time president Omar Al Bashir in April. The agreement gives the transitional authorities six months to make peace with the rebels.
The talks are being held in the South Sudan's capital, Juba, where some rebel groups signed a draft agreement last month that detailed a road map for the talks, trust-building measures and an extension of a cease-fire already in place.
"We shall start negotiations with open hearts and we are serious about bringing peace to Sudan," said Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, a member of the sovereign council that functions as Sudan's executive, after arriving in Juba on Monday.
Achieving peace is crucial to the transitional government in Sudan. Ending the wars with rebels would allow it to slash military spending, which takes up much of the national budget, and direct the funds towards reviving the battered economy.
Sudanese authorities have made goodwill gestures such as dismissing death sentences against eight rebel leaders and releasing more than a dozen prisoners of war. They have also delayed the formation of the parliament and the appointment of provincial governors to allow time for the rebels to come on board.
Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, the head of the sovereign council, was also in Juba for the opening session of the talks, along with other African leaders including Egypt's Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Ethiopia and the African Union mediated the power-sharing agreement in August which ended months of violence and faltering talks between Sudan's generals and protesters following the uprising against Mr Al Bashir.