ECOWAS has opened talks with Mali's rebel groups, including fighters linked to al Qaeda, as part of its effort to restore constitutional rule in the country.
The development is coming in the wake of its March 22 coup, Burkina Faso's foreign minister has said.
The talks are the first publicly acknowledged negotiations with the armed groups by the regional bloc since a mix of separatist rebels and Islamist gunmen took control of northern Mali following the coup in the capital.
``We have to ensure that all factions feel involved in the peace process. it is better for all of them to be present at negotiating table,''minister Djibril Bassole told journalists late on Thursday.
Burkina Faso is one of ECOWAS's lead mediators in the Mali crisis, but Bassole gave no details on any progress made.
ECOWAS is trying to map out a political transition and has said that it has a 3,000-strong force ready to be deployed to Mali, though analysts have questioned the bloc's readiness and appetite for desert warfare against heavily armed rebels.
The two main groups occupying Mali's north are the Tuareg-led MNLA, which wants an independent state in the desert north, and Ansar Dine, an al Qaeda-linked group which is seeking to impose Islamic law, sharia, across Mali.
But other groups including AQIM, al Qaeda's North African wing, MUJWA, which is an AQIM splinter group, and foreign fighters are also operating in the area, fuelling regional fears it has become a haven for extremists and international criminal gangs.
ECOWAS has offered to help Mali retake control of its north but plans remain vague and, before any force comes to the country, the bloc will have to resolve the political crisis.