US envoy Dr Richard Haass has described a controversial call to end prosecutions for Troubles related killings as ‘instructive’.

Dr Haass has responded to the claim from Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin that a line should be ‘drawn in the sand’.

The Larkin comments have drawn a hostile reaction on both sides of the Irish border according to Dr Haass after a series of meetings with political leaders from all sides of the community.

The American envoy is chairing all-party talks along with US foreign affairs expert Dr Meghan O’Sullivan.

They are working to reach agreement on parades, flags and the past have not ‘scaled down’ their level of ambition about what can be achieved according to a report in the Irish Times.

The paper says the US diplomats have met with AG Larkin after he proposed there should be no more prosecutions or inquiries into Troubles-relating killings up to 1998.

Dr Haass said:  “I thought the scale and the intensity of the reaction was instructive. It is crystallising how important the issue of the past is.”

The US diplomat remarked that when he was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland, he was involved in talks on matters such as decommissioning the issue of the past barely featured but now it was very much high on the agenda.

He added: “Intentionally or unintentionally what John Larkin said contributed to that crystallisation.”

Dr Haass and Dr O’Sullivan returned to the US on Saturday after a week of talks and are due back in Belfast on December 9th for two weeks intensive negotiations.

He added: “We leave here with a better understanding of where the parties stand and with a clear sense of the areas of agreement and the areas where agreement has not been found.”