Jonathan Powell is best known as Tony Blair’s fixer. He was intimately involved with the Northern Ireland peace process, about which he has written authoritatively, and since leaving office has set up his own NGO which advises on negotiations with terrorists worldwide. This book, subtitled ‘How to End Armed Conflicts’, is offered as a guide to negotiators.
They should find it very useful, packed with quotes and anecdotes from negotiations with, amongst others, the Tamils, ETA, the IRA, the ANC, Columbia’s FARC and, of course, that hardiest of all perennials, Israel-Palestine. It is liberally sprinkled with good advice and wise observations — that terrorist groups often start with unrealisable demands but change their aims over time, that in negotiations process begets progress and, most fundamentally, that if a political issue lies at the root of the conflict, and if the armed group enjoys significant political support, then there will in the end have to be a political solution and that will involve talking.