Madagascan leader Andry Rajoelina and the man he toppled three years ago, Mark Ravalomanana, have met face-to-face in the Seychelles for the first time.
A Seychelles government official confirmed that Andry Rajoelina, the Madagascan transitional president, and his predecessor Marc Ravalomanana had met alongside South African president Jacob Zuma. The South African president is a key mediator in the talks on the remote beach island of Desroches
The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) has given the two rivals a July 31 deadline to settle their differences.
Both South Africa and the Seychelles are members of SADC. Madagascar's membership has been suspended.
The Seychelles meeting revolves around a crisis that has engulfed Africa's largest island since Rajoelina ejected Ravalomanana in March 2009.
Omer Beriziky, prime minister of Madgascar's transitional government, told DW the meeting of the two protaganists in the crisis was a "good thing." All Madagascans, he added "were expecting a solution to the current crisis."
September roadmap for Ravalomanana's return
Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, led demonstrations against Ravalomanana following the closure of his Viva TV station three years ago. The protests gained momentum when he gained the backing of the army. As a leader, he has failed to acquire broad international backing.
Marc Ravalomanana has tried twice to return home.
The two men have already held talks with the country's main political groups since the ouster. Their subordinates have inked in several pacts.
A road map signed in September provides for Ravalomanana's return home with no conditions.
But parliament has passed a law barring people with criminal records from running for office. It demands that any presidential aspirants must have paid their taxes in full, effectively excluding Ravalomanana from any presidential race.
In 2010, Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life in prison and hard labor for the murders of around 30 demonstrators. They were killed by his presidential guards in the protests in 2009 which led to his overthrow.
So Ravalomanana's return from exile in South Africa remains a highly complex issue.
Seychelles claim return to stability in Madagascar crucial
The talks in the Seychelles come three days after the army put down a mutiny at a military base near Madagascar's main airport which left three people dead. It was not immediately clear whether the mutiny was linked to the broader political turmoil.
Seychelles President James Michel said a return to stability was crucial for all countries in southern and eastern African as well as in the Indian Ocean region. "Millions of people in Madagascar are sinking into extreme poverty. We have to act quickly before the political crisis becomes a social catastrophe," he said.