Published Sunday, 29 December 2013
US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said on Sunday afternoon: "Talks led by independent chair Richard Haass with the five parties of the Northern Ireland Executive have reached a critical juncture.
"The goal has been and remains to reach agreement before the end of the year on new arrangements for parading, flags, and contending with the legacy of past violence," she 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."
Ms Hayden 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."
Dr Richard Haass, the former US envoy to Northern Ireland, and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan are chairing the talks. They arrived back in the province on Saturday morning, after leaving without a solution on Christmas Eve.
The SDLP's Alex Attwood told UTV on Sunday that the best part of this process has been how parties have shown new authority in dealing with the past.
"We cannot now, at the eleventh hour, see that begin to unravel so that there is less of an outcome - or no outcome at all - in terms of dealing with the past.
"That would let so many people down - that would let victims and survivors down and that is not conceivable."
He continued: "Everything is achievable because it's not a matter of how many hours are in a day."
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: "Today is about saying 'These are the outstanding issues from our point of view.'
"There aren't too many. In fact, I would have to say that most of the document could be agreed probably by all five parties.
"But what remains are the real sticking points so it's not over the line by any means. But, there's still time and we felt we had a good meeting."
Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle added: "We've had six months of process, it's now time for a product.
"I think that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want to see leaders who are willing to show courage and compromise to agree long term solutions to these three difficult issues to allow us to get on with dealing with the wide range of social and economic challenges that we need to face in our community."
On Saturday, Dr Haass said that final agreement must be made by Monday.
A sixth draft of proposals will be presented to the parties ahead of the final session which is due to begin early on Monday morning.
© UTV News