US official Victoria Nuland meets Northern Ireland parties

Haass talks Previous talks on the issues of parades, flags and the past chaired by Richard Haass and Meghan O'Sullivan failed to reach agreement

A senior US official held meetings with representatives of the five executive parties at Stormont on Friday.

US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland welcomed next week's talks on the past, flags and parades.

However, she said the current situation in Northern Ireland was "a difficult moment" and "a moment for leadership".

Asked if the US might provide another chair for future talks, Ms Nuland said Washington would consider any invitation from the parties.

However, she said the primary responsibility for Northern Ireland's future depended on local party leaders being able to work together.

Ms Nuland said she had no doubt the US Vice President Joe Biden wanted to visit Northern Ireland "in the not too distant future", but it would be important he visits at a time when he can help the political process in Northern Ireland.

Asked if Northern Ireland might be in danger of frittering away its international reputation as an example of conflict resolution, Ms Nuland said no matter how difficult it feels on a day to day basis, it was important people remember how far they've come and protect and preserve the peace at every level.

Talks on the issues of flags, parades and the past, held over the Christmas and New Year period, failed to reach all-party agreement.

They were chaired by US diplomat Dr Richard Haass and his associate, Dr Meghan O'Sullivan.

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