The Orange Order is holding talks with nationalist residents of Ardoyne in north Belfast.

The talks are in advance of the annual 12 July parade. 

Ardoyne in north Belfast is one of the most sensitive interface areas of the 12 July evening.

It is where Orange Order members who have marched up the Shankill Road seek to parade past nationalist homes.

Serious rioting has taken place in recent years and every July expensive police operations are mounted in an effort to prevent trouble.

The Orange Order had been encouraged to hold talks with nationalist residents by loyalist residents in the same area and the development is seen as significant.

Community leaders and politicians have been working behind the scenes to ease tension.

The residents' association from loyalist Twadell and Woodvale estates publicly asked three local Orange Order lodges to engage in talks with the residents of nationalist Crumlin and Ardoyne.

The nationalists welcomed the move and the lodges confirmed their willingness to do so yesterday morning.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has said he very warmly welcomes the decision by the Orange Order to meet nationalist residents.

Mr Robinson said the decision could be a very far-reaching one in terms of ensuring a peaceful marching season in Belfast.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also welcomed what he said was a very important decision.

They were speaking after the North South Ministerial Council meeting in Dublin, where up to 20 ministers discussed a range of issues, including youth unemployment.