Sudan's government and main rebel group have signed key deals clearing the way for a full treaty to end Africa's longest-running civil war.
The protocol caps two years of negotiations
There were scenes of jubilation at the signing in Naivasha, Kenya, as last-minute delays were overcome after two years of discussions.
An estimated two million people have died in the conflict, which erupted between the north and south in 1983.
The deals do not cover a separate conflict in the western Darfur region.
'No more hills'
The deal between the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) involved protocols on power-sharing and the administration of three disputed areas in central Sudan.
The SPLA leader John Garang said: "We have reached the crest of the last hill in our tortuous ascent to the heights of peace. There are no more hills ahead of us,
the remaining is flat ground."
Power-sharing, Sharia in Khartoum
Status of Abyei
Status of Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile
The optimism was shared by the hosts to the conference.
"This is a victory not only for the people of Sudan, who are so
passionately thirsty for peace and stability for their country, but
also for the entire continent," said Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in a statement read by his foreign minister.
The framework brings together the mainly Muslim Arab government of the north with the black African Christian rebels of the south.
Hundreds of Sudanese and Kenyan officials and foreign diplomats, including US Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Charles Snyder, were kept waiting for several hours for the signing ceremony in the Kenyan lakeside resort of Naivasha.
Talks had stalled on how power would be shared in a transitional administration; on whether the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, would be governed under Islamic law; and how Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile regions would be administered.
The two sides have already established that the south should be autonomous for six years, culminating in a referendum on the key issue of independence, with Sharia law remaining in the north.
Protocols have also been signed on how to share out oil revenues, the establishment of separate monetary systems in the north and south, and security arrangements involving the two armies.
It is hoped that a final peace treaty could be signed in Washington as early as next month.
The US said the deal paved the way for normal relations to be revived with Sudan, providing certain conditions were met.
These included an end to the violence in the western region of Darfur, where a million people have fled their homes.
The BBC's Karen Allen, in Naivasha, says there is still a lot of work to be done, and the problems of implementing the deal in a country embittered by two decades of war could prove to be the biggest hurdle of all.