Published Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Dr Haass started work on Tuesday with his vice chair Megan O'Sullivan, who also has experience of local issues having visited the region in the past with the diplomat.
The former US special envoy is holding discussions at the Europa Hotel with the political parties and other groups to tackle issues such as flags, parades and the past.
Dr Haass told a press conference that the summer's violence was a warning against complacency.
"There's been tremendous progress but, that said, there is still a real need to move things forward and that is again why we are here," he said.
"One has to embed it and one has also to broaden it and there's obviously unresolved issues and unresolved tensions or again you wouldn't have had the violence you had this summer and you wouldn't have had these lingering and persistent political differences and I think the five parties recognise that."
I think this last summer was something of an indication or something of a warning that one should not take the improvements for granted.
Dr Richaard Haass
He said his appointment to lead the talks showed how there was recognition of the need among the political class to tackle some of the most divisive issues in Northern Ireland society in order to progress.
He said: "We have a limited time span, but an ambitious agenda. We want to try and bring as many people in to be able to put together a consensus document which will be broad and deep."
Dr Haass, in his former capacity as US envoy under the Bush administrations was a regular visitor to the region.
He is chairing the talks in a personal capacity and has been in contact with the British, Irish and US governments about the process.
Sinn Féin and the SDLP met with the diplomat on the first day, with unionist parties, the Alliance Party and church leaders to follow on Wednesday.
Representatives from the Orange Order, the local business community and others will also have their say later in the week.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness spoke with the current president of US Council for Foreign Relations, for just over an hour and was optimistic when he left with his party's delegation.
"We are approaching all of this in problem-solving mode," he said. "These are very, very serious issues that badly need resolution and we are very determined to play a positive and constructive role during the course of these discussions to find a resolution to these problems, because quite honestly that's what people want.
"They want to see us moving forward decisively, building a better society, a new future for our young people, bringing inward investment, creating jobs and taking advantage of whatever tools at our disposal to ensure that people have a better standard of living."
The Deputy First Minister added: "If there's a will and if there is a determination and if there is a generosity, yes, these issues are resolvable.
"I think we are all agreed that dealing with the issue of the past might be the most difficult of all, but I think if people come at this with a good heart, huge progress can be made."
Earlier SDLP leader McDonnell said the party had urged Dr Haass "to broaden the talks process to capture the insight and wisdom of the wider community including civic leadership."
"The SDLP believe that the greater part of Dr Haass' time should be spent outside the talks room in order to influence those in the talks room. The process can only benefit from external positive pressure placed on parties."
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