Stormont leaders to meet US diplomat Richard Haass

The first and deputy first ministers attended an American Ireland Fund event in New York

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Northern Ireland's first and deputy first ministers are due to have talks with US diplomat Richard Haass later, during their visit to New York.

It comes in advance of Dr Haass's trip to Northern Ireland next week.

He is due to chair all-party talks set up to deal with some of the most divisive issues confronting Northern Ireland.

They will consider the controversial issues of flags, parading and how to deal with the past.

Former US senator George Mitchell, who chaired the Northern Ireland peace talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement, was one of a number of guests at an American Ireland event in New York on Tuesday evening, attended by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness.

Senator Mitchell said he had been talking to Richard Haass about the talks.

He praised Dr Haass as "a very able man" who would make every effort to resolve the issues, but warned that once one difficulty is solved, others come along.

The first and deputy first ministers at an American Ireland fund event in New York The first and deputy first ministers at an American Ireland Fund event in New York

The first and deputy first ministers are due to meet Dr Haass at his New York think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ahead of that meeting, Mr Robinson said: "Richard Haass can't resolve our problems for us. He can facilitate, he can push and he can nudge. He can encourage but at the end of the day, it will be the parties in Northern Ireland who have to reach these agreements."

Mr McGuinness said: "There are people out there who are extreme loyalists and extreme so-called republicans who are still dedicated to destroying all of the good work of the past 15 years and who wish to plunge us back to the past.

"The Haass talks provide us with the opportunity to cut the ground from under those people."

The two leaders are in America to encourage investment in Northern Ireland.

On Tuesday, Mr Robinson tweeted: "Good meetings this afternoon with Duncan Niederauer, chief executive of New York Stock Exchange and with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg."

Mr McGuinness also used his Twitter account to talk about his "great friend, Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg".

Investors

The two ministers also met with existing investors, Citi and NYSE Euronext.

Mr Robinson said: "Since first establishing its centre of excellence in Belfast in 2004, Citi has made its fifth reinvestment in Belfast, with plans to employ up to 1,500 people in Belfast's Titantic Quarter by 2015."

Mr McGuinness said: "The NYSE Euronext has shown their commitment to the development of our digital economy by supporting the first Digital DNA conference in Belfast on 13 September.

"The conference is an excellent opportunity for world-leading digital companies to share skills and best practice."

On Thursday, the first and deputy first ministers will visit the New York Yacht Club for the annual Wall Street 50 awards.

The event recognizes the accomplishments of Irish-American and Irish-born leaders of the financial industry.

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