Monday, March 17, 2008

The Middle East Peace Process: the case for jaw-jaw not war-war

Michael Ancram posted on the Conflicts Forum website:

When I opened talks with Sinn Féin/Irish Republican Army (IRA), such was the anger of the Ulster Unionists that they declared me ‘contaminated’ and withdrew from talks with me. Yet as a direct result of those initial communications in the early 1990s we now have the makings of a peaceful and prosperous future for that historically troubled province. In Churchill’s terms, after thirty years jaw-jaw has proved better than war-war.

Let me be clear: I do not like terrorists and I despise their activities. However, while you do not have to like your enemy, it helps to respect him and dialogue is part of that respect. The Northern Ireland experience holds some lessons for the Middle East, particularly as the process we developed in pursuit of peace had largely to be constructed as I went along. No conflict is the same as another, but there are similarities from which it is instructive to learn.

The lessons from Northern Ireland are relatively simple. Dialogue can be entered into even during conflict. Exploratory dialogue can overcome the need for preconditions and can grindingly begin to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable, to seek out the eventual compromises upon which any long-term settlement must inevitably be built. Furthermore:

    * Conflict and insurgency can be contained by military action, but it cannot be defeated by it;
    * Negotiation towards a settlement of conflict nearly always needs to be preceded by informal dialogue;
    * Exploratory, non-committal dialogue can often make more progress than seeking commitments;
    * Undeliverable preconditions or deadlines are an end rather than beginning to dialogue;
    * Exploratory dialogue should be as multilateral as possible to seek out potential areas of common ground;
    * Low profile dialogue is more likely to succeed than that carried on in the spotlight of international publicity;
    * It is a better use of your time to talk to your enemies than your friends.
Read the entire article here >