British and Irish ministers have stressed the "critical" importance of making a breakthrough on devolution of policing and justice to Stormont before the end of January.
The latest session of the British and Irish Inter-Governmental Conference, in London, sought to inject momentum into the political talks.
A joint communiqué from the governments stopped short of demanding that Sinn Fein should call its special policing ard fheis before the end of next month.
But both Ulster Secretary Peter Hain and Irish foreign minister Dermot Ahern stressed the importance of making progress during the next six weeks.
Mr Ahern told a Whitehall Press conference: "The month of January will be critical".
Under St Andrews Agreement legislation, the Assembly will be dissolved on January 30 for a fresh Stormont election on March 7.
Mr Ahern said: "The sooner some move is made in this respect, the better because it clarifies matters going into the period when obviously a call has to be made as to whether or not there will be an election or not."
Mr Hain stressed the need for "clarity" both from Sinn Fein and from the DUP after statements over the devolution of policing.