NEWS: Talking to terrorists

Terror talks: would contacting al-Qaida be a step too far?

[Jonathan Powell was Tony Blair’s chief of staff for 12 years] Jonathan Powell’s candid reflections on talking to terrorists in his book revealing an insider’s view of the Northern Ireland peace process will ring true to anyone who has worked at the highest levels of government – in Britain dealing with Northern Ireland, in France with Algeria, in Israel with Palestinian Islamists. But is his call that we should be prepared to communicate with al-Qaida a step too far?

Experts make a clear distinction between territorial-based groups such as Hamas and Lebanon’s Hizbullah, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the jihadist movement inspired by Osama bin Laden, below. “Al-Qaida are what we call ‘incorrigible terrorists’,” said Peter Lehr of St Andrews University. “They have political demands but we cannot and should not meet them. We need oil so we can’t leave the Arabian peninsula and we can’t help them dismantle Israel. There’s nothing to discuss.”

Talking to Hamas and Hizbullah is a different matter, Lehr argues. “They are rational actors fighting for something negotiable, and with negotiations you start with maximum demands and whittle them down until you get agreement, or not.” [complete article]

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