Three questions to Jonathan Powell on why to talk to terrorists

Jonathan Powell, British diplomat and former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff, one of the architects behind the Good Friday peace agreement on Northern Ireland and founder of the NGO Inter Mediate, participated in FBA’s seminar in Almedalen on Tuesday 30th of June.

He recently published the book “Talking to Terrorists” where he advocates that sooner or later we always need to negotiate with terrorists; and why not sooner?

Why should governments talk to ISIS or Boko Haram?

Looking back in history, every time we meet a new terrorist organisation we say we will not talk to them and every time so far we eventually have done so to create a peace process. If this process has happened to PLO and IRA – why not for al-Qaida or ISIS?

Can you be friends with a terrorist?

As a negotiatior you need to be trusted by them and you need to have a working relationship with them. If you become friends you can fall into a “Stockholm syndrome” since they often are underdogs.

The Middle East is more unstable than in many years – what’s your prediction on the near future?

I believe we’re making a mistake to think that the Arab spring has ended. Every revolution has a counter revolution and I believe we’re looking at the middle of the Arab spring saying that it’s over, when this is just the beginning.

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Falling short: Exploring mediation effectiveness

On 22 November 2021, the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) held a half-day colloquium in Stockholm, involving 17 mediation specialists and FBA staff members, who participated in-person and by virtual means. Matt Waldman, an Associate of the Centre for International Studies at Oxford University, was invited to present on issues emerging from his ongoing research on mediation effectiveness.

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Jens Samuelsson Schjørlien

Jens Samuelsson Schjørlien is expert on leadership and cooperation in peace operations

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