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For the Media

Back Channel Negotiations Drive Mid-East Peace Talks

WHO:    Professor Anthony Wanis-St. John is a member of the faculty of American University’s School of International Service’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program.  His new book, Back Channel Negotiation: Secrecy in the Middle East Peace Process (Syracuse 2011) explains Back Channel Negotiations (BCNs) from the standpoint of the Israel-Palestinian decades’ long conflict which has employed secret BCNs consistently.  His research areas include military negotiations, ceasefires, humanitarian negotiations and peace processes.  He is an advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Marine Corp. Command and Staff College at Quantico. 

WHAT:  Available for radio, television, and print interviews

  May 17 – ongoing

American University, in-studio, or via telephone.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 17) – Anthony Wanis-St. John (Ph.D. International Relations, Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; MA Law and Diplomacy, Fletcher), explains in his new book, Back Channel Negotiation: Secrecy in the Middle East Peace Process, that public negotiations—front channel negotiations—often take place in tandem with secret negotiations—back channel negotiations (BCNs).  The practice applies to everything from labor-management negotiations to peace/cease fire negotiations in conflict zones around the world in Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and between Israel and the Palestinians.  

Wanis-St. John is not surprised about Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to Washington to meet with Obama and later Congress on the heels of King Abdullah of Jordan’s meeting with President Obama on May 17 from a publicity standpoint. “It would not be at all surprising if the Palestinians have been quietly lobbying the United States to support their upcoming bid for UN recognition. There might even be Palestinian-Israeli secret contacts on that issue as well,” says Wanis-St. John.  In fact, according to Wanis-St. John’s research, U.S. mediation in the Israel-Palestinian conflict was a “critical mistake” during the 1996-2000 period according to a former back channel Israeli negotiator.  The real breakthroughs occur when the parties can talk frankly across the table where signals can be
given on where parties can be more flexible despite publicly announced non-negotiable terms often influenced by spoilers, interest groups, and the media.

Wanis-St. John is available to discuss:

•  Why BCNs are critical to seeking agreements even during public meetings.
•  Explain how BCNs operate and the likelihood of them taking place now secretly between Israeli-Palestinian, U.S.-Talibani, U.S.-North Korean, U.S.-Iranian, and between Gadaffi-Rebel representatives.
•  Why some negotiations must take place in secret and the risks of conducting them in secret.
•  Who leaders trust to be their BCN representatives and the powers they must have to be effective.

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