By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) - British and Irish prime ministers on Monday urged Northern Ireland’s major political parties for a “final push” to reach an agreement on restoring a power-sharing executive.
Visiting Belfast together, British Prime Minister Theresa May and his Irish counterpart Leo Vradkar got involved in what is believed to be final stages of the talks to form a new government in the U.K. region after almost one year since the parliamentary election was held in March 2017.
After a series of high-level talks in Belfast, May said: “While differences remain, I think there is the basis of an agreement here.” She added the executive could be “up and running very soon”.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he is “very hopeful” of an agreement being reached this week.
Following meetings with Northern Irish political party leaders, Varadkar said there was a “lot of work to do” but progress was going in the “right direction”.
“We are very hopeful that those two parties are able to come to an agreement this week,” he added.
Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster said that the deal is yet to be finalized. "There isn't a deal yet, what there is, is very good progress."
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald -- who has replaced Gerry Adams a few days ago -- said the talks had reached "a decisive phase".
Since the March 2017 election, Irish nationalists and pro-British unionists were unable to find common ground on divisive issues such as the Irish language act and legacy issues inherited from decades of violence popularly known as the Troubles.
The previous local administration collapsed in January 2017 with the resignation of its Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over a botched energy saving deal. McGuinness died shortly after and was given a state funeral.
The DUP lost support in the March 2 election but managed to remain the biggest party, with a single-seat margin in the Northern Ireland Assembly over Sinn Fein.
But the DUP performed strongly in a U.K. general election in June 2017. In an unprecedented political move, it has become a vital source of support for the U.K.’s Conservative prime minister.