The United Nations says that armed groups in Central African Republic have agreed to release any children they are holding and not to recruit child soldiers.

U.N. Children's Agency representative Mohamed Malick Fall said Tuesday that this is a major step forward though challenges remain, including rehabilitation for the children when they are released.

UNICEF said between 6,000 and 10,000 children have been recruited by armed forces in Central African Republic.

The agreement was signed during the week-long forum in the capital, Bangui, where politicians, civil society groups and others have gathered to discuss the country's future.

Central African Republic was hit by unprecedented sectarian violence last year when the Christian anti-Balaka militia was formed to combat the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels, who had taken control of the country.