U.S. diplomat opens Belfast peace talks aimed at resolving sectarian divisions
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness speaks to the media following talks with U.S. diplomat Richard Haass at an hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. It followed inter-party talks designed to resolve issues over parades, flags and Northern Ireland's past. (AP / Peter Morrison)
Published Tuesday, September 17, 2013 3:33PM EDT
BELFAST -- A U.S. diplomat has launched a new round of Northern Ireland peace talks aimed at resolving deep-seated divisions over parades and flags that triggered widespread rioting this year.
Richard Haass says he will spend four months meeting rival British Protestant and Irish Catholic parties, churches, parading organizations and militant pressure groups.
Haass is director of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. He was President George W. Bush's envoy to Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2003.
Leaders of Northern Ireland's unity government invited Haass to oversee the Belfast talks in hope that he can forge a compromise plan on three areas of bitter dispute: parades, British and Irish flags and emblems, and remembering the dead from Northern Ireland's four-decade conflict.
Haass said Tuesday he hopes to publish recommendations by December.