DR Richard Haass and his team jet back into Northern Ireland today for a further round of intensive talks with Northern Ireland’s main political parties.
The talks broke up in the early hours of Christmas Eve without any agreement being reached around parades, flags and the troubled past.
The former US diplomat and his number two Meghan O’Sullivan then flew home to America for Christmas.
Now they are set to return to Belfast today, Saturday, December 28, for more bi-lateral talks over the next four days.
The main stumbling block has been, as Belfast Daily first revealed almost two weeks, centred around the issue of flags.
Unionist sources told Belfast Daily that the “Union flag was not for sale”.
Dr Haass and his team remain hopeful they can find some kind of consensus before the New Year on all three issues but the flags issue could pose the greatest problems for the parties.
Before today’s talks begin, the Haass team sent his fifth draft of proposals to the main parties in the Stormont Executive for consideration.
After the talks broke up without agreement at 4 am on Christmas Eve, Dr Haass said: “The work done politically and intellectually on contending the past is truly significant.
“I think also there has been important work done on the question of parading.
“Yes, it’s true that the work done on flags is quite disappointing by any measure but the other two areas, are I believe, quite impressive. I believe it would be a real shame not to turn that work into a reality.
“Let me be clear about this, we don’t have an agreement. (But) in no way have we given up on the possibility of still reaching agreement before the end of the year.
“We are not going to be able to put it under anyone’s Christmas tree, but again, we still have a week (before the 31 December deadline).”