Published Wednesday, 01 January 2014
First Minister Peter Robinson addresses the media during the Haass talks (© Presseye)
After marathon all-night talks ended, chairman Dr Richard Haass, a former US diplomat, said he had not managed to secure consensus with the region's five main political parties on a final set of proposals to deal with flags, parades and the legacy of the past before his end-of-year deadline.
DUP negotiators said they would consult within the party before making a final judgment on the proposals but indicated they had major difficulties with elements of the text.
However party leader Mr Robinson now says media reports of "talks failure" are inaccurate "given the wide gulf that existed on the Haass team's arrival and the broad areas of agreement on their departure".
"Yes, every party had, and expressed, concerns about features in the final product but I detect from each of the parties a willingness to "work on" to complete the task," he said in a statement.
"I think it is right that parties should first discuss the working report internally within their own structures while encouraging constructive debate more widely.
"We each must identify, not only areas where improvements are being sought, but also, how the problems identified by others can be accommodated in a way that does no injury to our own deeply held positions," he added.
We must not lose the momentum and we each should take care that areas of agreement are not allowed to unravel.
Peter Robinson, DUP
Mr Robinson said he supported the proposal by Dr Haass to create a working group made up of representatives of the DUP, Sinn Féin, UUP, SDLP and Alliance to move the process forward.
"I will recommend to my party colleagues that they support the suggestion made by Dr Haass that a "working group" be established to see how agreed elements can be taken forward while seeking to resolve areas where disagreement remains," Mr Robinson said.
Before leaving Northern Ireland on Tuesday, Dr Haass also denied the process had been a failure.
"Success should not be measured by what we report to you tonight or what the party leaders report tonight - I would ask you to judge the success in six months, in a year, 18 months, in two years, that would give a much more realistic definition or yardstick of what constitutes success," he said.
He urged Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to make the details of the final document public so people could make up their own minds.
The draft, entitled 'An agreement among the parties of the Northern Ireland Executive on parades, select commemorations, and related protests; flags and emblems; and contending with the past', was released by the Stormont Executive on Tuesday evening.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has welcomed the publication of the final draft.
"I would urge all of those interested in building the peace process to take the time to read this document and the accompanying note from Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan," he said.
"I would also appeal to all of the parties to the talks and to the two governments to embrace the Haass proposals as a significant step forward."
Dr Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and an envoy to Northern Ireland from 2001-2003, and talks vice-chairman Meghan O'Sullivan, a Harvard professor with experience in post-conflict Iraq, were asked in July by the Executive to submit recommendations for dealing with unresolved issues in Northern Ireland.
They said their role in any future political process would now be limited.
© UTV News