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  • 24 December 2013, 19:38

Northern Ireland Talks End Without Deal

Talks being held throughout the night in Northern Ireland aimed at finding a solution to peace process issues have ended without agreement.

The marathon session in Belfast between Stormont's five executive parties and chaired by US former diplomat Richard Haass broke up at 4am.

It had been hoped that a resolution over flags, parades and other matters connected with the troubles of the past could be found before Christmas.

Mr Haass and co-chairwoman Meghan O'Sullivan, a US foreign affairs expert, had hoped to return to the US with an agreement.

Instead, they will fly back home for Christmas empty handed and will instead ask all those involved a number of questions, the answers to which will, they hope, lead to another draft set of proposals - the fifth - that may bring a deal closer.

The pair have said they will consider returning next weekend if an eleventh hour deal can be struck.

Emerging from the meeting at the Stormont Hotel, Mr Haass insisted the process was not dead.

"I am not in the business of doing post mortems here because the patient is still alive," he said.

Mr Haass said there continued to be "significant differences and divisions" among the parties on all three issues being discussed.

While some progress had been made on parades and dealing with the past, there was no immediate prospect of a deal on flags, he said.

"The work done on flags is quite disappointing by any measure," he explained. "But the other two areas have been, I believe, quite impressive and I believe it would be a real shame not to be able to turn that work into a reality."

He added: "We would like to think there is reason to return....Let me be clear about this - we don't have an agreement, (but) in no way have we given up the possibility of still reaching an agreement before the end of the year."

Mr Haass has already said that neither he nor Ms O'Sullivan will be able to continue to be involved in the process beyond the end of the year because of other commitments.

As the talks were going on, a gun attack was carried out at a police station in Lisnaskea in County Fermanagh, according to members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. No injuries were reported.

Justice Minister David Ford's office tweeted: "Those who tried to kill police officers in Lisnaskea are to be condemned. They have nothing positive to offer."

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