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White House says Northern Ireland talks are at 'critical juncture'

Intensive talks will begin again at 6am tomorrow with a deadline set for 12 noon.

Richard Haass with Harvard professor Meghan O'Sullivan at Stormont on Saturday.
Richard Haass with Harvard professor Meghan O'Sullivan at Stormont on Saturday.
Image: Paul Faith/PA Wire

THE WHITE HOUSE has urged political parties in Northern Ireland to reach an agreement as the deadline draws closer in talks about a series of contentious issues.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council in the US said the talks are now at a ‘critical juncture’ but said the onus is on the party leaders to reach a compromise.

The leaders of five political parties in the Northern Ireland Executive have been meeting with US diplomat Richard Haass to make new arrangements for holding parades, flying flags, and contending with the legacy of past violence.

The talks are due to begin again at 6am tomorow morning for six hours before the deadline for an agreement kicks in at 12 noon.

Richard Haass has said the differences between the parties are “difficult but not intractable”.

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin has said failure would be an ‘unforgivable option’ while the SDLP lead negotiator Alex Atwood said the talks cannot be allowed to unravel ‘at the 11th hour’.

Atwood said failure to reach an agreement would let down both victims and survivors.

In a statement, US National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said that initiating the talks in the first place showed a commitment to move forward on tough issues.

“We are confident that a solution can be reached if there is political will on all sides,” she said.

“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”.

image(@RichardHaass/Twitter)

Read: No all-party talks today as Haass sets agreement deadline of noon, Monday >

Read: ‘Time to fish or cut bait’: Haass talks recommence, with Monday set as deadline >

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