Richard Haass says his talks are 'still on track'

Theresa Villiers and Richard Haass

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Northern Ireland talks chairman Dr Richard Haass has said there is a determination to make "real progress between now and the end of the calendar year".

Former US envoy Dr Haass was in London to meet Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to discuss his inter-party talks dealing with parades, flags and the past.

In recent weeks, Dr Haass also met Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg.

The US diplomat expressed satisfaction with the attitude of Westminster leaders to the talks he is holding with the five largest parties in Northern Ireland.

"I think there's a real commitment among the political leadership in this country across the board to make progress," he said.

Asked whether he could meet the talks deadline, Dr Haass replied: "I am still on track and determined to wind this up, if at all possible successfully, between now and the end of the calendar year."

The former envoy will meet the five Stormont executive parties for a further round of talks on Friday.

The US diplomat is being assisted by Harvard professor Meghan O'Sullivan.

During their first week of talks in September, they held more than 30 meetings with politicians and community groups, and received more than 100 submissions.

Dr Haass was chosen to chair the discussions by the first and deputy first ministers.

He is trying to make progress on areas that have proven difficult for the Northern Ireland parties to resolve.

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