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

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.