Northern Irish peace talks to enter crucial stage
September 15, 1997
Web posted at: 12:02 p.m. EDT (1602 GMT)
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (CNN) -- The prime ministers of
Britain and Ireland issued a joint statement Monday
apparently aimed at persuading a key pro-British party to
attend a crucial new round of Northern Ireland peace talks.
Britain's Tony Blair and the Irish Republic's Bertie Ahern
said the statement was intended to clarify their positions
for the round-table talks, which were due to begin
in a few hours. For the first time, the talks will include
the nationalist Sinn Fein party of Gerry Adams.
"Both governments reaffirm that the aim of the negotiations
is to achieve a new and lasting agreement, addressing the
totality of relationships, which commands the consent of both
Unionists and Nationalists," the statement said.
The prime ministers also reaffirmed that "any agreement in
these negotiations must command sufficient consensus among
the parties" and that "both governments would like to see the
decommissioning of some paramilitary arms during the
What's at Stake|
At stake in Monday's talks is the success or failure of years
of Anglo-Irish diplomacy, which has been aimed at getting
pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists to forge a
lasting settlement for Northern Ireland. About 3,200 people
have been killed in the decades-long conflict in the British
The statement was apparently directed toward the key Ulster
Unionist Party of David Trimble. Trimble said he would decide
on Monday whether to negotiate directly with his arch rival
Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.
Two smaller pro-British parties favoring continued British
rule of Northern Ireland have already announced they will
boycott the talks.
Sinn Fein gained access to the talks after
the IRA in July restored a cease-fire in
its decades-old violent campaign against British rule in
Trimble had pledged that the Ulster Unionists, the sole
mainstream voice of the 60 percent pro-British Protestant
majority in the province, would be present at the start of
the negotiations at Stormont Castle.
"We realize that in proceeding we will be involved directly
or indirectly ... in a process that involves Sinn Fein,"
Trimble said in a British TV interview on Sunday.
Some analysts believe that Trimble's party will attend the
opening of the talks but may then shun direct negotiations
with Sinn Fein.
On Thursday, the IRA issued a statement saying it could not
agree with democratic principles for the talks, as drawn up
by their chairman, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
Mitchell backs Britain and Ireland's assertion that Northern
Ireland's British status should not change until a majority
340 K/30 sec. (AIFF or WAV sound)
But the IRA and many Sinn Fein spokesmen say the province is
an illegal colony and that the people of Ireland should also
have a say in its future.
The IRA also said it disagreed with the Irish and British
governments' goal of getting paramilitaries to surrender
their arms during the talks, saying that would happen only at
the end of negotiations.
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said Sunday it
was "time to stop all the stalling and delaying tactics (by
Trimble) and move forward to bring the peace settlement."
Reuters contributed to this report.