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First real peace talks after weeks of violence in South Sudan begin in Ethiopia

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    Unidentified members of a delegation from the South Sudan Government and western observers meet at the Sheraton Hotel, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. Peace talks between warring parties in South Sudan scheduled to be held in Ethiopia were delayed Saturday because the sides haven't yet agreed upon an agenda, officials said. Late Saturday, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom said the two sides agreed to begin talks Sunday. Two areas the talks will focus on include ending hostilities and the release of political prisoners. (AP Photo/Elais Asmare) (The Associated Press)

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    Mahaboub Maali, left, from the South Sudan opposition, with his unidentified delegation, at a press conference at the Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. Peace talks between warring parties in South Sudan scheduled to be held in Ethiopia were delayed Saturday because the sides haven't yet agreed upon an agenda, officials said. Late Saturday, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom said the two sides agreed to begin talks Sunday. Two areas the talks will focus on include ending hostilities and the release of political prisoners. (AP Photo/Elais Asmare) (The Associated Press)

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    Unidentified delegates of the South Sudan Government sit in the front row at a press conference at the Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. Peace talks between warring parties in South Sudan scheduled to be held in Ethiopia were delayed Saturday because the sides haven't yet agreed upon an agenda, officials said. Late Saturday, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom said the two sides agreed to begin talks Sunday. Two areas the talks will focus on include ending hostilities and the release of political prisoners. (AP Photo/Elais Asmare) (The Associated Press)

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    In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, mothers and their babies displaced by the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor, queue for medical care at a clinic run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) set up in a school building in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (The Associated Press)

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    In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, displaced people arrive with what belongings they had time to gather by river barge from Bor, some of the thousands who fled the recent fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor by boat across the White Nile, in the town of Awerial, South Sudan. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (The Associated Press)

Two warring factions from South Sudan are holding more advanced peace talks for the first time since conflict began roiling the country Dec. 15.

The direct talks began in earnest Sunday, putting representatives of President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar together in Ethiopia. The talks are focusing on a cease-fire and the release of political prisoners.

Gunfire was heard in South Sudan's capital, Juba, Saturday night. South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said Sunday that forces loyal to Machar instigated the violence but that it was soon brought under control.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday the beginning of direct talks was an important step but that both sides need to put the interests of South Sudan above their own.