US presidential candidate John Kerry has offered his assistance to the Irish and British governments in the peace process, if he is elected to succeed president George Bush later this year.
In a statement, Mr Kerry said he hoped current efforts to break the impasse were successful, but added that the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement was needed.
Kerry also praised the negotiation of a draft European Constitution at the weekend, and the role of the Dublin government.
“This weekend President Bush will join European Union leaders in the west of Ireland for the EU/US summit,” he stated.
“There are many important issues facing the United States and the European Union.
“However, American presidential leadership is also needed on the issues facing the island of Ireland.”
Mr Kerry said he recognised the “significant setbacks” in the peace process.
“I hope the current efforts by the Irish and British governments and the political parties to break the impasse are successful,” he said.
“That effort must involve the full implementation of the Belfast Agreement.
“The US has a strong interest in promoting peace and as president I will stand ready to assist the British and Irish governments and all of those who work for peace, justice and democracy in Northern Ireland, playing whatever constructive and proactive role may be of use to advance the peace process.”
Meanwhile, former US president Bill Clinton has described how he faced enormous internal opposition when it came to the issuing of a visa to Gerry Adams a decade ago.
In his memoirs, Clinton writes that he ultimately rejected the anti-visa argument, because he believed that granting it to the Sinn Féin president in early 1994 was the “best shot” that his administration had for bringing peace to Ireland.
Clinton says that he held a soft spot for Ireland following a brief visit in 1970, but his involvement in the peace process began with his attendance at the Irish American presidential forum held in New York in the spring of 1992.
He writes that he knew that by granting a visa he would “infuriate” the British, but he was convinced that the Irish diaspora was capable of facilitating a breakthrough.
He felt that granting a visa would boost Adams’s leverage with Sinn Féin and the IRA, and increase American influence with the Sinn Féin leader.
This was important, according to Clinton, because unless the IRA renounced violence and Sinn Féin became a part of the peace process, the Irish problem could not be resolved.
Clinton writes of a last-minute “impassioned” plea against the visa by Secretary of State Warren Christopher. The British were “furious” when the visa was granted, he states.
“For days, (then British prime minister) John Major refused to take my phone calls,” Clinton says.
But he writes that April 10 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was reached, was one of happiest of his presidency.