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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 2 September, 2014

‘Today is the last day in Belfast. Hope leaders seize it’ – Haass urges progress as deadline looms

The final day of negotiations began at 10am this morning.

Dr Richard Haass and Harvard Professor Meghan O'Sullivan arrive at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast.
Dr Richard Haass and Harvard Professor Meghan O'Sullivan arrive at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire

NORTHERN POLITICIANS ARE meeting on the self-imposed final day of talks chaired by former US diplomat Richard Haass.

The negotiations recommenced at 10am after breaking on Saturday evening with Haass sounding a positive note in a tweet sent ahead of their resumption this morning:

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Haass, along with his colleague Harvard Professor Meaghan O’Sullivan, have been looking at solutions to outstanding issues such as flags, parades and the north’s legacy of violence for a number of months.

The positive tone was echoed by Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly who said as he entered the talks that he was “hopeful that an agreement could be achieved today”.

He added that:

Throughout this process Sinn Féin have a track record in negotiations of making and honouring agreements. That is the approach we have taken to these talks.

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DUP members Jeffrey Donaldson, center and Jonathan Bell, right, along with Mervyn Gibson, left,  of the Orange Order arrive for the final day of political talks in Belfast. (Pic: Peter Morrison/PA Wire)

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt also reiterated that his party was committed to the talks but sounded a more cautious tone about the ease at which agreement might be reached:

“The Ulster Unionist Party accepts the ongoing challenge of seeking a fair and agreed outcome to the Haass talks and re-commit ourselves to this final phase of the process.

In our opinion, the test of any proposal is whether it represents doing what’s right for Northern Ireland, and that will be measured in whether it is fair to all our citizens and advances society in a manner that does not disrespect the rights and needs of victims and survivors, nor disregards the rule of law.

Haass had set today as the final day to reach agreement after beginning the current phase of the process last week before breaking for Christmas and returning to Belfast on Saturday.

All five of the main parties are represented at the discussions.

Read: Negotiations to resume as Northern Ireland talks near deadline >

Read: White House says Northern Ireland talks are at ‘critical juncture’ >

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