Belfast Telegraph

Haass deadline: Final countdown for talks on dealing with past as White House urges compromise

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's main political parties are just hours away from Richard Haass' Monday deadline on an agreement for dealing with the past.

The countdown on agreeing on a way forward for parades, flags and the region's troubled past comes at the White House has urged the parties to find a compromise.

Five-party talks enter their final hours tomorrow - with discussions put back to 10am - in a last-ditch attempt to reach agreement on issues left over from the peace process.

An initial deadline for the sixth and final draft was put back from noon on Monday to later in the afternoon.

But despite delays in the schedule, a final agreed decision will have to be made tomorrow.

It's understood each of the politicians representing the parties will convene at 2pm for a short session to conclude the talks process.

Former US diplomat Dr Richard Haass - alongside co-chair Professor Meghan O'Suillivan -  has been leading negotiations in an effort to prevent a resumption of recent sectarian violence.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt described progress on talks to address the past as "80 to 90% over the line".

"So there's not a lot left, but what is left is serious from our point of view," he said.

Among the issues up for discussion in the last few weeks have incude what "themes and patterns" should be included in any examination of the conflict years and topics which should be part of the work of the Commission on Identity, Culture and Traditions.

Also included is what should be the broad principles for a code of conduct on parades, protests and select commemorations.

Urging Stormont's main parties to reach agreement, US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said:

"Initiating these talks demonstrated the commitment of the parties and people of Northern Ireland to move forward on tough issues. We are confident that a solution can be reached if there is political will on all sides.

"We call upon the leadership of the five parties to make the compromises necessary to conclude an agreement now, one that would help heal the divisions that continue to stand between the people of Northern Ireland and the future they deserve."

DUP leader Peter Robinson - who is heading his party's negotiations - said while there was a "large part of the document I could readily bring to the party" there are "other elements that render the rest unworkable".

"I hope he (Dr Haass) will be able to see a conclusion and we're still optimistic it can be reached, but it won't be reached by us fudging issues or doing something more abruptly than we would otherwise want to," he said.

Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said if Dr Haass and Professor O'Sullivan returned to the US without making an agreement it "would be a terrible embarrassment" for politicians and the process.

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