- POSTED: 01 Jan 2014 03:49
- UPDATED: 01 Jan 2014 06:48
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Talks led by former US diplomat Richard Haass aimed at ending disputes on flashpoint issues hampering peace in Northern Ireland broke up on Tuesday without agreement.
BELFAST, United Kingdom: Talks led by former US diplomat Richard Haass aimed at ending disputes on flashpoint issues hampering peace in Northern Ireland broke up on Tuesday without agreement.
Haass was called on in September to help the main political parties end arguments over flags and parades which have caused rioting in the British province.
The disputes are the legacy of the Troubles, the three decades of sectarian unrest between pro-British Protestants and Republican Catholics that largely ended in 1998.
"It would have been nice to come out here tonight and say we have got all five parties completely signed on to the text - we are not there," Haass said after the talks wrapped up.
The parties had set a December 31 deadline for an agreement.
Haass, the former US envoy to the province, said it was "no secret" that flags was the "toughest" issue to resolve.
However, he said there had been "significant progress" all round.
The seventh and last draft proposals by Haass were published on the Northern Ireland executive website.
The 40-page draft agreement showed that any form of a deal on flags was not even close.
It also proposed an Independent Commission for Information Retrieval, which would encourage those involved in killings to provide details on the grounds that their revelations could not be used against them in court.
Under the draft, the commission could also assess alleged state collusion with paramilitaries or alleged paramilitary ethnic cleansing campaigns conducted around the Irish border.
It also proposed the creation of a Troubles historical archive.
Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson urged all sides to keep up the momentum and hold firm on areas of agreement.
"I do not recognise as accurate reports of 'talks failure' given the wide gulf that existed on the Haass team's arrival and the broad areas of agreement on their departure," he said.
"I detect from each of the parties a willingness to 'work on' to complete the task."
Outbreaks of rioting over the past 12 months were the worst in Northern Ireland for years as community tensions over the marching season in the summer, when parades are held to mark historic dates, spilled over into violence.
Angry protests also took place in December 2012 over a decision by Belfast City Council to restrict the number of days that the British flag was flown at City Hall.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was "disappointing" not to reach a full agreement but said the talks had "achieved much common ground".
"I urge the parties to keep going," he said in a statement.
The Republic of Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny called for reflection on the progress that had been achieved.
"I hope that the period ahead can be used to build on that effort, and provide a basis for a future agreement," he said.
In Washington, the White House also said it was "disappointed" as it urged Northern Ireland's political leaders to "continue to work together".
"Engaging in a sustained dialogue with civil society can help the parties find a sustainable path forward to overcome sectarian divisions," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.