Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Karen Feste, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Darren Hicks

Third Advisor

Joseph Szyliowicz


Conflict resolution, Ethnic conflict, Negotiation, Separatism, Terrorism


It is in the interest of this thesis to investigate why governments negotiate with separatist terrorists, and why those negotiations succeed or fail. The four cases analyzed in this thesis include: Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, (1983-2009); Russia and the Chechen Republic, (1994-2009); Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, (1993-1994); and Great Britain and the Irish Republican Army, (1985-2009). In this study, four basic questions are addressed: When and why do governments agree to negotiate with separatist terrorists? Is negotiation a viable solution to ending historic ethnic conflicts? Are certain peace agreements and negotiation strategies more successful than others? And why, after having secured a settlement, do tensions erupt and violations occur?

My research indicated that governments negotiate with separatist terrorists when faced with a mutually hurting stalemate and a mutually perceived solution. However, the postponement of a final status solution undermined the stability of these ripe moments, for ripe moments are susceptible to resurgent violence. Furthermore, my findings illustrated that negotiation is a viable solution to ending ethnic conflict. However, it is more likely to be successful if insurgent groups are perceived to have rational leadership and finite objectives. My findings demonstrated that imposed settlements are more successful than negotiated settlements in terminating conflicts, as only one of the four negotiated settlements analyzed in this study can be considered a success. Lastly, my research illustrated that negotiations do not fail exclusively because they involve terrorist actors. Rather, negotiations fail when both parties' leadership is inflexible and extremist or when a final status solution is delayed. They fail when absolute claims for self-determination and independence clash with inflexible positions on territorial integrity or when neither side is willing to comply with the terms of the agreement. And they fail without broad support or without the presence of a powerful, objective third party mediator.

Ultimately, my findings illustrate that negotiation readiness, rather than conflict ripeness, is more important to achieving successful negotiation between states and separatist groups. All of the cases experienced conflict ripeness. Only the IRA/UK study, however, demonstrated complete negotiation readiness: the conflict was perceived as risky, yet spoiler violence was missing; a neutral and coercive third party mediator was present; and lengthy back-channel communication was used. My findings further illustrate that the absence of spoilers and spoiler-induced violence, combined with the guidance of a forceful mediator, most significantly contributed to a successful negotiation. Certainly, ripe environments foster negotiation. It is complete negotiation readiness, however, that cultivates a successful peace agreement.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Dottie Bond

File size

125 p.

File format





Political Science