The British and Irish prime ministers, David Cameron and Enda Kenny, are traveling to Belfast to oversee multi-party negotiations on saving Northern Ireland's power-sharing government, a peacemaking alliance at risk of collapse.
Cameron says their arrival later Thursday signals that nine weeks of negotiations "have reached a crucial phase." The British leader says both premiers will push to persuade rival parties to sustain power-sharing between the Protestant majority and Catholic minority, the central achievement of the 1998 Good Friday accord.
Over the past year the two principal parties, the Irish Catholics of Sinn Fein and British Protestants of the Democratic Unionist Party, have taken opposite sides in a growing list of political, financial and cultural disputes. They have made Christmas Eve an informal deadline for a deal or defeat.