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When Should Mediators Interrupt a Civil War? The Best Timing for a Ceasefire

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When is the right time for a ceasefire to interrupt a civil war? Is it before or after negotiations on political reforms begin? Should mediators give priority to reaching a truce in order to save lives immediately while running the risk of prolonging the conflict? Or should they first promote the achievement of a political settlement that is likely to bring about a lasting peace and, with it, a definitive end to the carnage? The purpose of this article is to help negotiators make this uneasy decision. The question of the best timing for a ceasefire is addressed by assessing whether it ought to occur before, during, or after the negotiations over political issues underlying the conflict. The conclusion reached is that mediators eager to solve the conflict and limit the overall amount of damage are best advised to interrupt the fighting during the negotiation process, after the belligerents have attained a broad consensus on how to deal with the political issues at the root of the conflict.

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