OUAGADOUGOU - Mali's government and the two rebel groups that took control of the northern half of the country in April, have met for the first time and agreed to negotiate an end to the crisis, a minister from mediator Burkina Faso said on Tuesday.

A delegation of Malian government officials met representatives of the separatist Tuareg MNLA, whose initial rebellion was hijacked by al-Qaida-linked Ansar Dine. The Islamist militant group was also represented in the meeting in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou.

"The three delegations agreed on the need to create a framework for inter-Malian dialogue, which will be inclusive, and would involve representatives of the different communities living in northern Mali," Burkina Faso foreign minister Djibril Bassole, told journalists after the meeting.

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