DOHA (AFP) - Sudan and Darfur's most active rebel group signed an accord on Tuesday paving the way for broader peace talks to end a conflict that has claimed the lives of several hundred thousand people in six years. "This is an important turning point in the Darfur conflict," said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, whose country hosted a week of talks between the Khartoum government and the Justice and Equality Movement. "I am very optimistic, as both sides are determined to end this conflict," he said at a media conference following the signing. The Doha talks were the first contacts since 2007 between the government and representatives of the JEM, which boycotted another largely abortive Darfur peace deal in 2006. "The accord stipulates that negotiations continue towards a final peace agreement, in a period no longer than three months," Sudan's Ambassador to Qatar, Abdullah al-Faqiri, told AFP. JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim said at the media conference: "We will reach a final and just solution with God's will, to end this war, which with God's will will be the last war in Sudan." He said that "in a sign of goodwill," the JEM would release a number of prisoners from the government side. The official Qatar News Agency reported that 21 prisoners would be freed by the rebels. The Sudanese Ambassador said that the agreement provided for an exchange of prisoners in the near future. JEM member Tahar el-Fakih told QNA: "The two sides have committed themselves in principle to an exchange of prisoners, to be freed in successive groups between now and the launch of talks on a framework agreement on peace in Darfur." The JEM leader said the group is keen to include all warring factions in the negotiations, and called on Sudan's neighbours Chad, Egypt, Libya and Eritrea as well as the international community to join the talks. In Cairo, Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said that Egypt wanted a "precise" role in order to "create a unified platform for all Darfur rebel movements." The sponsors of the Doha talks - Qatar, the United Nations, African Union and Arab League - stressed that they were preliminary and intended to pave the way for a broader peace conference on Darfur. The most heavily armed of the Darfur rebel groups, the JEM declined to sign the 2006 peace deal inked only by the Sudan Liberation Army faction of Minni Minawi and in May last year launched an unprecedented assault on the Sudanese capital. Minawi, who was in Cairo on Tuesday in his capacity as Sudanese presidential advisor since signing the peace deal, questioned the new agreement's priorities. "We don't know if the document signed in Doha is about a ceasefire or an end of hostilities... It seems that the JEM is more interested in the question of prisoners than in a ceasefire." "Normally, an exchange of prisoners between the negotiating parties happens after a ceasefire comes into effect," Minawi said.