Insight with Jonathan Powell: Talking to Terrorists

Talk Tuesday 25 November 2014, 7:00 PM

The rise of the Islamic State (IS) has once again thrown into question how governments deal with the threat of terrorist organisations. Around the world governments consistently proclaim that they will never ‘negotiate with evil’. And yet is the public rhetoric always in line with what is actually going on behind closed doors?

Jonathan Powell has spent nearly two decades mediating between governments and terrorist organisations. In his new book Talking to Terrorists, he argues that no conflict – however bloody, ancient or difficult – is insoluble.

He will be joining us in conversation with roving foreign correspondent for The Times, Anthony Loyd, to reflect on the current situation with IS and how governments have reacted, both on the public stage and behind closed doors. Looking back on his own experience he will be discussing how we can use the lessons of a history of clandestine communication.

Jonathan Powell has spent half a lifetime talking to people and organisations labelled as terrorists. He runs Inter Mediate, a London-based charity for negotiation and mediation that focuses on the most difficult, complex and dangerous conflicts, where other organisations are unable to operate. In 1997 he met Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and became instrumental in negotiating peace in Northern Ireland. In 2008 he suggested publicly that western governments should open talks with the Taliban, Hamas and al-Qaeda. Today, he works on different armed conflicts around the world and is the UK Prime Minister’s special envoy to Libya. He is the author of two books, Great Hatred, Little Room and The New Machiavelli.