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Should governments talk to terrorists? Do they have any choice?
Without doing so, argues author Jonathan Powell in Terrorists at the Table, we will never end armed conflict. As violent insurgencies continue to erupt across the globe, we need people who will brave the depths of the Sri Lankan jungle and scale the heights of the Colombian mountains, painstakingly tracking down the heavily armed and dangerous leaders of these terrorist groups in order to open negotiations with them.
Powell draws on his own experiences negotiating peace in Northern Ireland and talks to all the major players from the last thirty years—terrorists, Presidents, secret agents and intermediaries—exposing the subterranean world of secret exchanges between governments and armed groups to give us the inside account of negotiations on the front line. These past negotiations shed light on how today's negotiators can tackle the Taliban, Hammas and al-Qaeda. And history tells us that it may be necessary to fight and talk at the same time.
Ultimately, Powell brings us a message of hope: there is no armed conflict anywhere in the world that cannot be resolved if we are prepared to learn from the lessons of the past.
JONATHAN POWELL worked for the British Foreign Office for fifteen years until, in 1994, Tony Blair poached him to join his ‘kitchen cabinet’ as his Chief of Staff. Since leaving the Prime Minister's office, he has worked with a Geneva-based NGO, negotiating between governments and terrorist groups in Europe, Asia and Africa, and has now established his own NGO, InterMediate, to continue this work. He lives in London with his wife and two daughters.