Fresh round of talks to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland 'must find a solution in weeks'
A fresh round of talks to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland must find a solution in "weeks rather than months", leaders have been warned.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney confirmed at Stormont that fresh negotiations will begin next Wednesday.
Mrs Bradley said there were still "significant difficulties to overcome" but she believed a resolution is possible.
A deal must be secured in "weeks rather than months", Mr Coveney said.
"As co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, the British and Irish Governments have a responsibility to ensure the effective functioning of its institutions," said Mr Coveney in a statement.
"In this spirit, we have been working together since the Assembly election in March 2017 to support discussions between the parties on the formation of a new Executive and on implementing outstanding issues from previous agreements.
"While significant progress has been achieved in these discussions in various formats, the necessary level of agreement between the parties that would allow them to form a new Executive has not yet been reached.
"Northern Ireland has now been without a functioning devolved government for more than a year. This is not a position that can be sustained for much longer."
Mr Coveney said that everyone has a responsibility over the coming weeks "to make every possible effort" to secure the effective operation of the devolved power-sharing institutions.
"On the basis of the discussions over recent months, I continue to believe that an agreement to form a new Executive can be achieved.
"Karen and I will spare no effort in seeking a return to devolved power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, which is at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement.
"Both Governments will work in partnership to achieve this and I look forward to being back here in Belfast next Wednesday for bilateral engagement with all the parties."