Whilst mediation is being hailed as viable tool and solution for overcoming violent conflict and bringing parties to the table (even in the most violent of conflicts), there has to be a moment where parties do get together to find alternate ways to solving their issues.
The Syrian case is a good case in point when it comes to understanding the notion of ripeness, readiness, windows of opportunity, and, moreover, the limits of mediation. The inherent dynamics of the conflicts at the micro-level and the geopolitical sphere are so intrinsically connected to the actors that any attempt to bring parties together will have to deal with some of the most contentious parameters in mediation. Actually, the entire conflict resolution community is witnessing the advent of a new type of intervention into violent civil wars, one that the community is not ready to address.
What eludes us peacemakers is the notion of strategic deceit – the tactic that one side may be willing to negotiate with the ultimate goal of gaining time and momentum among followers, factions and friends in order to sabotage the final agreement. Syria wouldn’t be the first case. Angola during the 1980’s witnessed the same negotiation dynamics. As long as strategic deceit is an option in the arsenal of the parties involved to the conflict, the notion of peace is mere utopia. To overcome strategic deceit, peacemakers need to work horizontally and vertically across many factors, communities and disciplines.
This article by Transconflict is a perfect resume of the challenges and opportunities in the Syria case.
The trajectory of the Geneva II negotiations – either towards convergence (resolution) or divergence (non-resolution) – will affect the outcome of one of the most violent and protracted conflicts in the Middle East.