Sudan and a major rebel group signed a preliminary deal on political and security arrangements on Friday, paving the way for eventual reconciliation through ongoing talks.
Sudan's ruling council and rebel groups restarted peace talks last October to end years-long conflicts, after a transitional government was put in place following the fall of 30-year autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
Friday's deal, which was signed in neighbouring South Sudan, grants special status to two regions, South Kordofan and Blue Nile, which are under the control of the rebels.
Representatives of the government in Khartoum signed the agreement with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) at a ceremony led by the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
"After this signing we are going to finalise the full agreement and the SPLM-North will be part of the new system in Khartoum," said Yasir Said Arman, the deputy head of the SPLM-N.
Under the terms of the deal, South Kordofan and Blue Nile will be allowed to draw up their own laws, Arman said. It also seeks to resolve long-standing disputes about sharing of resources such as land.
The agreement also seeks to unify all the various militias and government troops involved in Sudan's multiple conflicts into a single military, Arman said.
Sudan's ruling council was committed to the peace process, said Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the council and the head of the government delegation at the peace talks.
"The government of Sudan is more willing than before to reach a peaceful settlement in Sudan", Dagalo said at the signing ceremony.