Symposium on the Future of Conflict Prevention: Session 1: Keynote Address by Terje Roed-Larsen

Monday, December 10, 2007

PAUL STARES:  Okay, why don't we get started?  For some reason, I seem to be the only one without a name tag, so I should introduce myself.  I'm Paul Stares, director of the Center for Preventive Action here at the Council.  And on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations, I would like to formally welcome you to this symposium on the future of conflict prevention.

Now, 10 years ago, almost to the day, the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict issued its final report.  Three years in the making, it is widely seen as a landmark study.  It represented a powerful plea for preventive action and a comprehensive set of recommendations for achieving that goal.  And we're honored to have David Hamburg here, who co-chaired the commission.  And we're very pleased, David, that you could make it today.

The report also galvanized the whole field of conflict prevention and helped define the field.  And I think what has now become conventional wisdom in terms of conflict prevention owes much of what the study laid out -- in particular, that conflict prevention should not just be about last-ditch efforts to avert violence, but long-term sustained tension to states and regions at risk was critical to prevention, what they called structural prevention as distinct from near-term operational prevention; that conflict prevention should not just be about military and diplomatic activities.  A whole set of initiatives from development assistance to state-building were also part of the menu or tool box of conflict prevention initiatives.

Is this -- can you -- maybe get closer?  I'm very sorry.

Thirdly -- is that better?  That seems to be.  Now I can hear the resonating.

Thirdly, that conflict prevention cannot be accomplished by one state or one institution alone.  It has to involve the coalition of partners harnessed to a common purpose.

And finally, that conflict prevention cannot ultimately achieve its full promise without it becoming ingrained in our thinking and behavior, what they called nurturing a culture of prevention.  And this is absolutely critical to their findings.

Now, I think the key findings and recommendations of the commission are no less relevant today.  The imperatives for preventive action are just as compelling.  Indeed, they have arguably grown more acute.

Now, while the incidence of armed conflict has declined in the 10 years since the release of the report, it is hard to take a lot of comfort from these statistics.  The costs of armed conflict have been horrendously high over the last decade.  Hundreds of thousands, if not more, have been killed and maimed.  Millions have been displaced.  Heinous atrocities and other crimes against humanity have been committed.

Now, looking ahead, a quick survey of the world's hot spots are not exactly reassuring either; quite the contrary, in fact.  If we look at the situation in the Middle East, it is extremely fragile, despite recent progress in Iraq and at the recent Annapolis conference.  Some would even characterize the situation as highly combustible.

The situation is hardly better in Central and South Asia.  The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, while the stability of Pakistan lies in the balance.

In Africa, the outlook has improved for some but worsened for others.  The main peace treaties in the Congo and the Sudan, where much of the violence has taken place over the last decade, are barely holding up.  Darfur continues to be an affront to humanity, while the situation in the Horn of Africa is seriously deteriorating as I speak.  The same is true for Zimbabwe.

And in Europe, we are hardly out of the woods either.  As many of you know, today is the deadline for the report of the troika, the U.S., EU and Russia, to the secretary general about the situation in Kosovo.  And the situation in the weeks ahead could become particularly unstable there, if not also for the Caucuses as well.

And what about further into the future?  There are many troubling questions that we must grapple with.  What effect will the likely proliferation of weapons of mass destruction have on international stability over the long term?  The same goes for what are often called super-empowered individuals and non-state actors.

What about the impact of global warming and resource scarcity that Vice President Al Gore so eloquently warned about this morning from Oslo after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize?

And can we be so sure that the era of interstate conflict and great power rivalry is truly over, or coming to an end at least?  If we were sitting here 100 years ago, we would probably be comforting ourselves that major war was a thing of the past.  Now, will we look back and also wonder what the hell we were thinking about in years to come?

And while we obviously cannot hope to address all these questions today, we do want to stimulate a debate about whether the U.S. and the international community is really up to the challenge of conflict prevention in the 21st century.

We will begin first with a keynote address from the president of the International Peace Academy, Terje Roed-Larsen.  He will be followed by two sessions, one looking back over what we have accomplished over the last 10 years and what we have learned, and the second looking forward to the challenges and requirements of the future.

We have a terrific set of speakers here and we're very privileged and thankful that they've made the effort to be here today.

Finally, let me say that we hope to make these symposia an annual event.  It's, in many respects, reviving a tradition that the Center for Preventive Action had in the past.  And we're very grateful for the Carnegie Corporation of New York for making it possible.

Before I hand over the podium to Richard Haass to introduce our keynote speaker today, I just want to add, please turn off all your cell phones.  The proceedings are on the record; I have to remind you of that.  But in particular, please turn off your cell phones and other electronics.

Without further ado, I will hand the floor to Richard.  Thank you.

RICHARD N. HAASS:  Let me thank Paul and join in his welcome to all of you to the Council today and to this conference on the future of conflict prevention.

The Center for Preventive Action is an important component of this organization.  In recent years, many people have come to recognize and appreciate better the link between conflict around the world and security at home.  Clearly conflict brings not simply horrible consequences for those caught up directly in fighting, but it also brings insecurity and the prospect of lawlessness and state failure, things which in turn lead to terrorism, human and drug trafficking, pandemic disease.

The work of this center is to identify and address the root causes of conflict and central to what we're trying to do here at the Council, given our larger mission of promoting a better understanding in the world and of the foreign policy choices facing this and other governments.

Let me say one or two things also, though, about the center and the people who have been and are associated with it.  Today marks not simply the 10th anniversary of the publication of the landmark Carnegie report, but also it marks a transition here, the welcoming of Paul Stares as our new director, who arrived here at the Council just a few months ago, and thanking his predecessor, General Bill Nash, for his six years of service.

Bill, stand up for a second.  Let people see you here.  (Applause.)

During Bill's tenure at the helm of the center, it issued an impressive series of publications, 13 in all.  He also directed an independent task force sponsored by the Council on post-conflict capabilities, and he co-authored a special report on the Balkans.  More generally, he helped to establish conflict prevention as a topic of importance here at the Council and on the foreign policy agenda.  The good news, though, is that Bill, in addition to all that he's done, is staying with us here at the Council as an adjunct senior fellow for conflict prevention and will continue to direct our Military Fellows Program.

Paul, who you've just heard speak -- or at least after the first few minutes you heard him speak, Paul comes to the Council from the U.S. Institute of Peace where he was the vice president at Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, therefore he is well-schooled in what he is going to be working on here.  He's got a strong background in the academic world and multiple think-tanks.  He led a working group on the environment for the -- that formed the backdrop to the Iraq Study Group, and having him here, I'm sure will lead to the Center building upon what Bill began and, essentially, when we have a 20th anniversary meeting, there will be that much more to look at. 

Let me just, if I may delay things just a few more minutes -- I apologize for going on so long, and say something about two other people.  One is General Jack Vessey.  Jack has been the chairman of the Center's advisory committee; he's been a long time member of this Council; he has been someone who has given the lion's share of his life to public service in and out of uniform. 

It's interesting that someone who has his background, someone who wore the uniform of the United States military for all those years, who is probably the most eloquent and committed person I know on conflict prevention --  And for those of you who think that's an irony or a contradiction, trust me, it's not.  In my experience in government it's precisely people in uniform who often are the most ardent when it comes to conflict prevention, if only because they are the ones who have to deal with failures in conflict prevention. 

Jack couldn't be with us today, but asked me to convey his good wishes and respects to one and all.  Jack couldn't make it but I am particularly glad though to see Patrick Burn (sp) here today.  Patrick's another long-term Council member, and he and his family have provided invaluable support to the Center for Preventive Action, in particular by helping to establish the chair, named after John W. Vessey, and the current chair now -- and the chair is currently held by none other than Paul Stares. 

Let me also thank the Carnegie Corporation for its past and present support, Vartan Gregorian; and also we're thrilled and I'm thrilled that David Hamburg is here today and will be with us on the first panel.  It's a great event, as Paul said, looking backwards, looking ahead, and it seems to me entirely right for where we are because alas, there's no shortage of material for this subject. 

Our keynote speaker is Terje Roed-Larsen.  Terje is the fourth president of the IPA.  For those of you who are wondering what that is, it's not simply an independent form of beer served at many pubs in Britain, it is the International Peace Academy.  And he serves also as the secretary general's special envoy for the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which obviously deals with the situation in Lebanon. 

Personally and professionally, I find it hard to imagine a better person to be with us today.  Terje is one of the wise men of our time, and he is, I believe, one of the wise men about a part of the world that, alas, provides the most material for conflict prevention, which is the Middle East.  He is director of an institute that -- in the early '90s he was director of an institute that studied what was going on in the Palestinian territories.  He played a central role at fostering the negotiations that ultimately brought the Israelis and the PLO together across a table, rather than across a battlefield, and it led, as you all know, to the Oslo Accords just over -- what, nearly a decade and a half ago now, just under a decade and a half ago now. 

Since then he's held important posts in the Norwegian government and at the U.N. largely, again, focused on the Middle East.  And now, as I said, he is the head of what I think is one of the most thoughtful and important institutes that's involved in this world; that, in some ways, I think the IPA performs a unique bridging role between the work of international organizations, and particularly the U.N., and the intellectual world.  And, again, it's hard for me to find a better person to oversee this hybrid than a person who, if you will, is a walking, talking hybrid himself. 

What we're going to do today is Terje's going to speak from here -- for what, 10 or 15 minutes, about the larger subject, then he is going to have to submit to some of my questions for a few minutes.  We'll do that from up there, and then we will have a larger conversation involving you all. 

Mr. Roed-Larsen. 


TERJE ROED-LARSEN:  Thank you very much, Richard, for those two nice words.  It's a pleasure being with you, and good afternoon to everybody.  I'll use 10 minutes to talk a little bit about my perspective based on working, particularly in the Middle East, with peace-building and peace-making, and also being responsible for peacekeeping operations for a number of years. 

And my thesis is basically that there -- the search for a grand theory of conflict prevention is in vain; that the best we can do is to define tools to be used to establish a toolbox, which then has to be adopted very carefully to very detailed analysis of the political context that we are working in.

And here Richards's invention ("ripeness" ?) of the conflict is key.  And so what I'll do with you is to share with you my thoughts about the situation in the Middle East and what challenges it poses for conflict prevention. 

If we go back over the last many decades there was one conflict which defined all the subconflicts of the Middle East, that was the center of gravity for everything, that was the Israeli-Arab conflict.  My thesis is that this center of gravity doesn't exist anymore.  Rather, that there are four independent epicenters of conflict, each with its own independent dynamic, and has to be understood -- first as an independent conflict but also that these are getting more and more entertwined.  And the four are, of course, the Iraqi issues, the Iranian issues, the Palestinian-Israeli issues, and the Syrian-Iranian-Lebanese issues. 

If we look at Iraq, of course that conflict has nothing with the Arab-Israeli conflict (to do ?).  It has a dynamic of its own, and it's integrated in the regional dynamics regardless of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  If we look at the Iranian issues today, they are also independent from the Arab-Israeli conflict, and they're basically threefold.  The first is, of course, the perception -- still, after the U.S. intelligence assessment, the perception, particularly amongst the key Arab players in the region, that indeed they are pursuing a nuclear capability.  This might be wrong, but the fact is that the perception is there and it's the perception who drives action.

And then secondly, since this is the perception, this perception, in my opinion, will lead to a collapse of the NPT, the nonproliferation treaty, because there's no doubt in my mind that other countries in the region will indeed pursue the same goals which will lead to a (de facto ?) collapse of the NPT with enormous consequences for global peace and security. 

And then thirdly, which is not less important, there is also very strong perception amongst the key Arab Sunni leaders that Iran -- and I'm saying this perception might be right, it might be wrong -- has aspirations of hegemony and dominance in the region.  And for many of them this has now become the dominant -- the dominant conflict.  As one Arab leader puts -- said to me the other day, "I've come to realize that I've been fighting against the Israelis all my life, but I've come to realize that this is actually just a real estate dispute."  And I'm saying this to illustrate how the perceptions of the geopolitical landscape in the region has changed so fundamentally.

And if we move our eyes to Lebanon, for the government coalition in Lebanon, their main struggle now is what they perceive as aspirations of hegemony and dominance, partly from Iran but particularly from Syria -- rightly or wrongly, but it's very strongly the perception. 

So the reason why I use a bit of time for this is to basically say there are -- the whole geopolitical landscape of the region has changed fundamentally.  And this is why -- and it's incredibly important for us who are analysts and policymakers to realize this change because it means that you have to use different tools in order to address the issues. 

Many would also say that these four epicenters of conflict in the Middle East that they're getting more and more intertwined and that indeed there is with the perception of many Arab leaders -- and maybe many is an understatement -- is that there is a new center of gravity in the Middle East, namely Iran, which has as one head of state said -- (inaudible) -- here in New York not too long ago that it's perceived us as an octopus which has its tentacles into every subconflict of the region.  I'm not saying that this necessarily is correct, again, but it is the perception and it's an articulated perception. 

This makes it, if indeed true, and also the very perception of the dynamics makes it probably more difficult now to resolve any of these conflicts than at any time before in the history of the conflicts because they're intertwined because if you look coolly at this it is very hard to resolve one of these epicenters of conflict without resolving all of them, and this is the kind of magnitude of the challenge now.  I do believe -- for instance, I worked with, as Richard mentioned, with Oslo in '92 and '93.  I do not think that Oslo would have been possible today because the conflicts are so intertwined.  There has to be -- they have to be addressed in parallel. 

But when this is said -- (inaudible) --say a few words about the kind of tools which have been used in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict I mean, Madrid was a first major attempt to do it.  In my opinion, Madrid was a very important event but it was only an event because the process -- and I was a part of it -- failed completely.  It didn't deliver anything.  And then Oslo came in as an alternative because what Madrid was it was over diplomacy and it brought in, as you may recall, a particular set of actors which was the Palestinian-Jordanian delegation where people who were associated to or members of the PLO or Fatah were banned from being in the talks, which was a major mistake because it was impossible to make a deal without bringing the leadership of PLO with Arafat (in Tunis ?) on board because they had blocking power or anything and it was -- (inaudible) -- completely beyond them to allow their de facto representatives from Jerusalem and Gaza to make a deal because it would mean the end of the PLO.  And this is what we saw in Oslo -- you can't make a deal without going to Tunis and this is precisely what we did. 

What we also saw was that the Madrid process as it played out in Washington turned it into a kind of rolling press conference where the Israelis were speaking to their electorate and the Palestinians were speaking to the Arab street, and were speaking less and less to each other.  So what we did was the opposite.  We met very small delegations -- there were only three -- maximum four on each side and usually only three and we insisted it should be the same people but should not stay at different hotels as they did in Washington -- basically live together and go through a period of -- and this is the tool again -- of prenegotiations where the only goal is to create personal confidence and to try to be helpful in producing a belief that there is some kind of a way to go about it and which became the idea of the declaration of principles -- a completely different way of working two different architectures of the process. 

Oslo, of course, was not a peace agreement.  It was the first roadmap because what it actually does is just designing a road towards a possible -- (inaudible) -- it should take five years and was taking 15 -- to reach the end goal, and the end goal wasn't defined in there because they couldn't agree on the notion of a Palestinian state.  So then both Rabin, Peres, and Bibi Netanyahu actually followed the gradualism of Oslo.  Ehud Barak, when he was prime minister, broke very radically with the sole approach. 

He left the gradualism and approached something which might be called totalism, and I remember I came to him to the day after he won the election that year and -- to his house and asked him, "So, Ehud, what are you going to do?"  So he laughed and he looked at me and said, "I will do exactly opposite of what your Oslo guys did."  And then he used a kind of funny metaphor.  He said, "You see, because what we have in front of us is an ugly dog.  And then you have to analyze it and you have to find out why is it ugly, and what you see is that -- is that it's ugly because it has an ugly tail.  So what do you do then," he said.  "Of course, we chop off the tail and we beautify the dog."  But he said, "But not like al-Salami, like you Oslo guys did it.  You have to do it in one chop.  I would make peace with Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinians and end the conflict in one go."  Admirable. 

And I agreed, but it failed miserably and led to seven years of violence.  And this is a very important point and highly relevant to the process, which is ongoing now -- the Annapolis process.  That is that when you start a process like this it's very risky because if you fail you don't -- do not go back to status quo ante.  You make it a lot worse because what you are doing is making a competition, saying, "We believe the negotiating table can resolve the conflict."  And then the other guys are saying, "It's only" -- this would be Hamas in Gaza -- would say, "No, it's only resistant," as they would put it, "the barrel of the gun which can do it." 

So if you fail with a negotiating table then the alternative for many will, again, be the barrel of the gun and this was precisely what happened after Camp David.  So I think it was Karl Marx who said if history repeats itself first it's tragedy and then it's comedy, but this is risky business and it's very, very, very serious business.  And this is also, I think, in many peace process (sic) around the globe there is very little institutional memory of which tools are effective in which kind of situations.  Ariel Sharon chose another strategy which he himself actually termed as unilateralism.  He pulled out of Gaza without negotiations.  In my opinion, admirable. 

But it was done the wrong way.  The architecture of the process was wrong because when you pull out unilaterally then the guys with the guns can say, "You see?  The guns worked," because then you can't argue it with a negotiating table.  So actually this weakened Abu Mazen and his allies and strengthened Hamas, and in my opinion paved the way for their de facto coup d'etat in Gaza.  Again, the tools.  You have to have an eye for the landscape to understand when it's right and when it's not right and you have to use the wrong -- the right tools, and if you use the wrong tools it goes bad. 

So, again, shall it be done overt?  Shall it be done covert?  Shall you start with a ceremony -- Madrid, Annapolis -- or shall you do it secretly and end with a ceremony like Clinton's 13th of September ceremony at the White House lawn with just Arafat and Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.  These are completely different ways of doing things.  But what is pretty shocking to me is that it seems that the -- (inaudible) -- negotiators they tried to reinvent the wheel once again and doing exactly the same mistakes, even if the history here is only 15 years.

I think I will end on that note.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

HAASS:  Well, thanks, Terje.

Let me -- you referred more than once to the toolbox.  We have an affirmative action program here at the Council where we've tried to increase the number of carpenters in our midst.  What is in your toolbox?  What do you think is in the conflict preventor's toolbox, or needs to be?

ROED-LARSEN:  Let me illustrate by -- address the Israeli-Palestinian issues and then the Syrian-Israeli issues.

Let's take Syria.  Everybody's saying Israel and Syria should go to the table -- or nearly everybody.  I would offer the question, "What is the agenda?"  And if you look today, the agenda today has to be very different from when President Clinton was negotiating with Hafez al-Assad and Ehud Barak because Syria wants -- and it's fair -- they want to have one agenda item -- the Golan. 

If you look at Israel, there isn't any Israeli government that said, "Hold on.  Yes, it's okay with Golan, but we have to talk about Hezbollah.  We have to talk about the new line -- the border to Lebanon.  We have to talk about all the Palestinian so-called rejectionist groups -- Hamas, Jihad, PFLP-GC, et cetera, et cetera, who are headquartered in Damascus and strongly supported by the government of Syria and some of them funded with money from another neighboring country.  And we also have to chip in allegations that insurgents in Iraq are coming in from Syrian territories."  And if you at that agenda, I would say to resolve all those issues today through negotiation -- impossible.

So I would say that -- I mean, these talks will not bring -- the chances for these talks to bring about the resolution are extremely small.  But if you starts negotiations and it collapses, it might pave the way -- a case for war.  So I'm basically saying you have to be extremely careful about the tools and how you design the process.

HAASS:  Well, let's talk about one now.  I mean, you've used the Middle East as an example.

One of the analyses that a lot of people have been putting forward -- truth in packaging, including me -- is the Palestinians now are too weak to make a peace -- that -- with the Hamas sitting in Gaza and so forth.  So what about -- might not one of the tools in your kitbag be military and economic aid to Abu Mazan to strengthen his hand so he can control the Palestinian territories better and have the confidence that he can survive compromise?  Couldn't the diplomat's kitbag here, if you will, include a lot of guns and a lot of dollars?

ROED-LARSEN:  You know, I would actually -- I would support such an approach.  But even if this is done, I think the chances for -- within 2008 -- within the timeframe of the current U.S. administration to make a deal on all the final status issues is very unlikely.  So -- and then, I think there are kind of three alternatives here.  One is -- and it tends to be done on a parallel basis of what you suggest -- is that the minimum which might be possible would be a package of evacuation of settlements and a compensation package for the settlers because that would create a completely new dynamic there.  But I doubt very much that this is enough for Abu Mazan to survive politically in the West Bank. 

And then the extreme here is, of course, the final status deal, which is the goal of Annapolis.  But it's not only so that the current ruling coalition in the West Bank is not particularly strong, but it's also so that what Abu Mazan needs -- can this be delivered by the current cabinet in Israel?  I doubt it, but you can get the consensus in that cabinet around the final status deal.  Can it be carried in the council?  In my opinion, no way, which means that we have to have new elections, which probably is the way it will go indeed.  But this cannot be done within the time frame we are talking about. 

And this is why -- don't create expectations which are dashed, because that creates new violence. 

To play expectations down, try to do it.  And this is why my opinion is that a deal here can only be reached through negotiators who have the same goal and who does it secretly, because public negotiations will not work here, because both parties will have to posture.  Of course, this is why in substance, the declaration from Annapolis is very weak.  It's only process oriented.  This is why, I mean, none of them could give away anything.

HAASS:  But doesn't that contradict your point?  One of the criticisms of Annapolis was just that -- that the joint document, the joint understanding, was just process.  And in particular, it didn't give Abu Mazen -- Mahmoud Abbas -- any argument to take home to the Palestinian people about why they should reject violence and embrace negotiations.

One of the things -- what I thought you were going to say is that you need to say in public, and arrange things in public so that people in private are prepared to compromise.  One of the critiques I would make of Annapolis is the United States didn't do that.  I would say the same mistake was made at Camp David -- that the Carter administration, arguably, didn't give Arafat the public protective shell he needed -- I'm not sure he would have taken advantage of it anyhow -- but you need to have a public dimension so private diplomacy can prosper.  How does that sound?

ROED-LARSEN:  On -- (inaudible) -- I would have done Annapolis at the end of a process, not at the beginning of a process, because then you create expectations which are not very likely it will be met.  I would have gone straight into secret negotiations or semi-secret -- maybe have one public and one secret, but the real one is the secret -- and then ended up with a spectacular ceremony, because there's no way the parties are willing to give away what they have to give away at the beginning of the process.  They will not play their cards.  This is the (soup ?).  I mean, they will not play their cards before the deal is there.  You would never have the Palestinians to renounce the right of return or find some compromise there towards the very end of the day -- (inaudible) -- Jerusalem.

HAASS:  What would have happened if President Bush had done what the two of them were unable or unwilling to do?  It really gets at the role of outsiders.  If you're right, that at the beginning of a process you can't expect the protagonists to make their compromises and declare all that they're prepared to settle for, what's wrong with having outsiders do that to create a context for them to go do their work in?

ROED-LARSEN:  You know, I think when Annapolis was first announced it was something very different from what actually happened, because there was great expectations that there would be a deal at Annapolis, which of course was impossible.  And then the expectations were lowered to what was realistic -- namely, to start the process.  But you don't need a ceremony to start the process, because then you build the expectations again.  And look, I mean, it's 12 months, maybe less, to do it and then you have to have elections.  In Israel you have to have a referendum in the West Bank for sure.  I mean, this takes time to organize.  So the chances are very slim -- though there's one good thing which came out of Annapolis and the process which is going on now, that is that the process in itself is containment and it's holding back violence.  So there is a plus there, but there are lots of minuses.

So this is -- and again, it's the tune books.  You have to be extremely careful what tunes you choose and timing is everything.

HAASS:  Let me ask you a couple more questions, then I'll stop.

Obviously, you believe in diplomacy.  You're a diplomat by training.  So should Hamas have been in Annapolis?  Should you have all the parties to a dispute there?

ROED-LARSEN:  This is a completely theoretical question, because given the coups d'etat in Gaza, I mean, Abu Mazen and the Palestinians would never have accepted to have them there.  I mean, it's like, you know, if the president of France was kicked out of Paris by his prime minister and had to live in Lyon --

     HAASS:   Let me ask the question --

     ROED-LARSEN:  --  and then ask him to go to the same meeting with the guy who's sitting in the Elysee Palace, I mean, come on.  It is completely unrealistic.  It's kind of per se good, but it has nothing with the world of reality.

HAASS:  Let's ask the question a different way -- (laughter).  Should there now be -- (laughs) -- I should, yeah -- I spent several years talking to people who essentially represented the IRA, so I have some familiarity with this dilemma, which is it gets really, actually -- I'll ask the question this way:  It gets at the whole question of preconditions.  As a diplomat, do you believe that there should be preconditions set before you are willing to talk to a party, be it Hamas in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute; Iran in the case of the U.S.-Iranian bilateral relationship where the United States has announced it will not entertain bilateral dialogue until such a time as the Iraqi -- as the Iranians first suspend uranium enrichment?  In principle, do you believe that preconditions are a -- should they be part of your toolbox?

ROED-LARSEN:  Let me put it this way:  Preconditions should be negotiated in pre-negotiations.  And actually, I'll mention one example here and that is the agenda for Syria-Israel talks.  This has to be -- you have to agree on the agenda first, because if you don't agree on the agenda, such talks are doomed.  And you can only do that in pre-negotiations -- maybe through go-betweens -- and as far as I understand, there's been a bit of a process here and the conclusions are not very encouraging.

HAASS:  I should have pre-negotiated this conversation.  (Laughter.)  You're tough, you're tough.

Let me ask you:  One word that has conspicuously not emerged from the -- today, is one that if I had been sitting next to the 43rd president of the United States would have emerged quite often, which is the word "democracy."  How important is it that the protagonists be democrats -- small "D" -- in the sense of be committed to democracy, be part of a democratic political culture?  Do you see that as necessary, desirable, irrelevant, counter-productive?  I'm curious how you view that.

ROED-LARSEN:  I mean, if you stood up rigid, western-style criteria for a democracy, I mean, there's not hardly anybody you could speak to in that region.  So if you want to speak, you have to accept that all these guys are not necessarily good guys, but you have to speak to them. 

But what I'm saying is that the question is not to speak to them, but how will you speak to them?  And if you design the speaking in the wrong way, it will go bad.  If you do it in the right way, then the design will determine the outcome.  And this is why I think Madrid and Oslo are very good examples of this.  I mean, Oslo was done as the exact opposite of Madrid and it worked.

And let me also add one thing here and that is the kind of three buzzwords here:  It's peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace building.  One of the reasons why the peace process has survived was actually that the Palestinian Authority was established as a part of the deal, because if you don't (build ?) institutions, peace is not sustainable.  And if there had been no Palestinian Authority, there wouldn't have been a Middle East peace process now.

So this is a completely new chapter I'm opening up here, but this is also incredibly important here, because in a way, Oslo has survived as an ideology -- the two-state solution -- which has conquered the majority of opinions on both sides and conquered both the political elites of Israel and the Palestinians.  Look at this:  Ariel Sharon actually went further than Yitzhak Rabin.  Rabin never spoke about the Palestinian state and he didn't want a Palestinian state -- and I know it for a fact.  Ariel Sharon radicalized Oslo by calling for a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.  This shows that the process is stronger than the personalities, but it has to be carried by institutions.

HAASS:  Talking about -- let me just ask the question in a slightly different way:  The United States has put a great emphasis on the quality of Palestinian institutions, and so have certain voices in Israel.  Indeed, there is an entire school of thought -- including people like Natan Sharansky and others and people in the United States who agree with them -- that essentially believe so fervently in the concept of the democratic peace that they essentially say that unless you have democracies as your counterparts, you shouldn't be entering into permanent peace arrangements.  That you can't be sure that non-democracies will keep them; you can't be confident that non-democracies won't resort to force.

What do you think of that?

ROED-LARSEN:  Well, I mean, this is a kind of substituting demand, because then you can hardly speak to anybody in that region.  And if --

HAASS:  Well, it leaves you more time for golf.

ROED-LARSEN:  -- if you set that up as a precondition, then you can operate with it as a goal for what should come out of peace negotiations.  But have that as a precondition?  Impossible. 

And this was precisely why -- one of the reasons why Madrid and Washington failed, because Arafat and, rightly so, were defined as, historically, terrorists.  But I mean you couldn't make a deal unless you spoke to them.

HAASS:  You spent a lot of your life working at the U.N., particularly these recent years you have, and you're now with the IPA, which is -- is affiliated too strong of a word?

ROED-LARSEN:  We are an independent institution, but we have a kind of monofocus on U.N. issues and issues on the U.N. agenda, basically the same agenda as the Security Council, reform of the U.N., et cetera.  So we are kind of an impacting think tank, but with only one client, so to speak.

HAASS:  Okay.  So let me ask you then the question about you clearly have a view that outsiders play an important role in many peace processes.  What are the -- when do you know whether to reach for the U.N., as opposed to some regional organization, as opposed to, say, the United States or somebody else acting alone?  Do you have a sense of criteria in your own head, a template that would lead you to think on what occasions the U.N. is probably the right lead, as opposed to the United States or somebody else?

ROED-LARSEN:  Yeah, I can give them.  On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's very difficult for the U.N. to play an essential role, simply because there is such a deep skepticism against the U.N. in Israel and any Israeli government.  Whatever the prime minister must privately mean about it have to take that into consideration.  And you saw it exemplified last week when the U.S. proposal to endorse Annapolis in a Security Council resolution was withdrawn from the table.  I don't want to elaborate, but I think it illustrates the point.

HAASS:  But then there are instances where actually the U.N., in recent history, have played the lead role and a very constructive role in very close cooperation with the U.S.  And since we have Ambassador Nancy Soderberg here with us, the U.S. and the U.N. worked -- she was the U.S. representative in the Security Council in the year 2000.

And that was an incredibly tight and good cooperation between the P-5 and particularly the U.S. and France, when the U.N. very successfully negotiated Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon.  And nobody else could take that role, simply because it was only the U.N. who, under international law, could draw the line of withdrawal, the so-called "blue line," because there's no nation who could do that.  It's only the U.N. who has the legitimacy to do it.  But we needed the support of the basic players internationally and the region, and we got it.

I remember -- maybe I shouldn't say this, because I was a negotiator -- but Kofi Annan -- I remember he told me we will do this, but only if the P-5 accept that we have the lead role and that the P-5 are going to be our supporters for it.  This was happily accepted by all of them, and Nancy did a great job in the Council -- (inaudible).

So -- and also, if I may add, then also Syria's withdrawal of their military group, the withdrawal from Lebanon, the same.  I was -- had the privilege of overseeing those negotiations, and there was nobody but the U.N. who could have done that.  

So there are instances where the U.N. is in a unique position, but there are also instances where it's extremely difficult for us to do things.  And I think the establishment of the Quartet potentially is very good, because here you have U.S. power, European money, and you have U.N. legitimacy.  But again, it's a tool which has to be used the right way.

HAASS:  Okay.  Let's open up the collective toolbox here.  We have a tool called the microphone, so if -- I'll recognize as many of you as I can.  If you would let us know who you are and where you're from, keep your questions short, the ambassador will give some answers.

Ambassador Pelletreau.

QUESTIONER:  Bob Pelletreau, American Academy of Diplomacy.  Terje, what's your view of the role of NGOs in conflict prevention?  As sponsors of track two discussions, as developers of various projects that build confidence, where does NGO activity fit in your toolbox?

ROED-LARSEN:  Actually, they are very much at the center of my toolbox, because there are instances where NGOs, like research institutes, like the Council, like IPA, can do things which no government can do.  And you can do it in cooperation with a government, and actually Oslo is a case in point here. 

Because the Palestinians and the Israelis, when they started Oslo, they tried to be completely secret, and so secret that they did not want the government of Norway to facilitate it.  They wanted a research institute to facilitate it, because then there was deniability, because they could say it's only an academic exercise.  Actually, the first draft of the Oslo agreement was written on the stationery of my previous research institute, SASO, so that they could have the deniability, saying look -- (word inaudible) -- this is a seminar. 

So actually all the facilitation from A to Zed was done by this NGO, but with the full support and knowledge, of course, of the government and the foreign minister, of course, was briefed on every detail.  So, for instance, I can tell you it was Foreign Minister Stoltenberg, who you know very well, who was foreign minister for the first part of the Oslo process, and then Mr. Holst for the second part.  Soltenberg never met the negotiators on either side.

So, I mean, there is this niche which is very, very, very important.  I could give you other examples as well.

HAASS:  Toni -- Toni Chayes.  We have a microphone coming your way.

QUESTIONER:  Toni Chayes, Fletcher.  How could preventive deployment have worked better in Lebanon, and would it have been a good idea at the time the unfortunate deployment took place?

ROED-LARSEN:  That's a hard one.  (Mild laughter.)  No, it's -- of course, there are so many issues in Lebanon.  The burning issue of the is of course the presidential elections, which have been stalled.  Parliament is supposed to meet again on Tuesday to elect a president.  Hopefully, it will happen. 

And it's very difficult; it's very tricky to intervene in such a process.  There is a Security Council resolution, 1559, and I'm working with their special envoy for its implementation, which calls for free and fair elections, according to constitutional rules. 

But there is a fine line here, because this is -- also they have sovereign divisions of the parliament.  So for the international community, even the U.N., to intervene here is difficult.  And what kind of historic that's happened over the last few weeks, historically, is that the government of France has taken very much the lead in a dialogue between the different parties and the key regional players on these issues.  But it's incredibly difficult, because you have to tread on this very fine line. 

So I accompanied the secretary-general just a few weeks ago to Beirut, where we spoke to all the key players, and it is really difficult, because it's -- it's the democracy issue again.  Because -- if I may use half a minute on it -- it's because the constitution calls for a secret ballot where the president has to be elected by two-thirds.  But there is also a para saying that if this doesn't work, there can be a second ballot that is only half plus one, absolute majority.  But what the government coalition, who has more than absolute majority, they are afraid that if they indeed do take this step, then it will unleash a civil war. 

There is also another -- para, Para 74, in the constitution that says that if the presidency is vacant, then parliament has to meet and there's no requirement for a quorum.  So anybody who shows up can elect.  But politically, people are very resistant to do it, because it might lead to new violence.

So here, there's very narrow room for maneuvering for the international community or for diplomacy at all. 

And it's a fragile balance here.  But everybody knows, of course, that several of the key regional players are very happy, to understate it, into this process.  But it has to be addressed with great delicacy.

HAASS:  Mind if I add one or two things?  Just on preventive deployments, I'd just say two things.  One is, there's an interesting debate going on about Kosovo now, whether we ought to plus up, if you will, the existing quasi-preventive deployment to make sure that it's a successful preventive deployment.

The other situation that comes to mind is not so much a preventive deployment, but I think it makes the larger case that you need to keep a peaceful situation peaceful or make a non-peaceful situation peaceful if you're going to succeed.  And the British army took them more than a decade in Northern Ireland, and you basically had to persuade people there that they could not shoot their way to their political goals.  And only when they became persuaded, I believe, that on one hand they had a political route, and two, they could not succeed through the military route, did you essentially have the preconditions of a successful negotiation.

So I'm a great fan of preventive or transconflict deployments.  The problem is, as you know better than I do, it's just often hard to mount them.  The biggest problem, it seems to me, is one of will and capacity, not the idea.  I think the idea is a pretty strong one.  It's just hard to do it.

(Inaudible.)  I'll try to get to everybody.

QUESTIONER:  (Off mike.)

HAASS:  You have to wait for the microphone, sir.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah.  Farooq Kathwari from today Refugees International.

You mentioned about this perception among the Arabs about Iran.  How much do you think that perception is within the ruling classes, and how much of it is within the general populations?

ROED-LARSEN:  (Inaudible) -- very much in the ruling classes and very little in the general population.

HAASS:  (It has ?) real consequences, because if the United States were ever to -- the same governments that are urging the United States, on many occasions, to use force would then have to deal with the consequences from below.  And some of them, I think, might want to be careful what they wish for.  But that'd be my last intervention.  I don't want to abuse it.

Sure.  Yes, ma'am.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  Giuseppina Zara (sp) from the -- (inaudible) -- United Nations.

I have two questions in which --

HAASS:  Can you make it one, because --

QUESTIONER:  Excuse me?

HAASS:  Just keep one question, because we've got lots of people who want to ask questions.

QUESTIONER:  Okay, thanks fine.

Lebanon, of course, in which my country has a keen interest -- do you think that the perspective of two governments is a realistic one, or do you think that the convergence of one name that came out in the press is going to be -- you know, it's going to realize this?  Thank you.

ROED-LARSEN:  I've learned that the only thing which is predictable in the Middle East is that everything is unpredictable.  And I don't think it's possible to (do ?) anything about it, because everybody is kind of up in the air.  There can be a -- (inaudible).  If there's not, I mean, we will be on a very slippery slope.  And I don't think there's anybody who can have any qualified opinions about where this will end, unfortunately.

HAASS:  Alan?

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  Alan Heimit (sp), Columbia Presbyterian.

In '91 in Madrid, the leaders who represented were perceived to be strong leaders.  In '93, in September, on the White House lawn, the three leaders were also perceived to be very strong leaders for their own people.  Now we've all recognized there are no strong leaders anywhere.  How does that affect negotiations?

ROED-LARSEN:  Terribly.  (Laughter.)

HAASS:  "Terribly" was the answer.  Do you want to elaborate why?

ROED-LARSEN:  I kind of touched upon it when I talked about what Abu Mazen needs.  Abu Mazen needs very clearly now to demonstrate to his people that the negotiating table works better than the barrel of a gun, and that's quite a challenge, which means that it's only a very good deal which can help him.

Then, on the other side, you have Olmert and a very mixed cabinet where you have people who are very resistant to have the establishment of the Palestinian state, very resistant about splitting Jerusalem into two capitals, extremely resistant to any solution related to the refugees.

So I think -- as I said earlier, I think he will have to -- if the deal is a good deal for Abu Mazen, then I think Olmert will have to take it to the people, to elections, which also means that when you have an administration which is outgoing -- and it will be any administration, not only this administration -- it will, of course, be much weaker, because they just have 10 months to go.

And there will also be a temptation, I'm telling you, amongst the parties to think the longer it goes, as Arafat did during Camp David, "Why should I give this on a silver plate to an outgoing president?  It would be much smarter to give it on a silver plate to an incoming president, because then I will have good will for four, maybe eight years to come."  And the longer you move into the election cycle in the (States ?), the more these temptations will come up amongst both of them.

HAASS:  Sure.

QUESTIONER:  (Inaudible) -- from Muslim Public Affairs Council.  You quoted the Arab diplomat saying he has been fighting for a real state.  And actually, again, as you presented the conflicts, the four conflicts, it seems that the parties to the conflict are all in the Middle East.  But missing from sort of all of that, or maybe the threat that combines the four, is the commodity, oil.  And that brings in a lot more participants to the conflict.

Can you really have a solution to all of these without really addressing that particular aspect of it?

ROED-LARSEN:  I think this is a very, very important aspect.  And this is actually one of the reasons why the Middle East conflicts are unique compared to all other conflicts, whatever continent or region you are in, because, say, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it's a local conflict, but it's also a regional conflict because it's a domestic conflict in every Arab and every Muslim country, and it has become also domestic conflict in most European capitals because of the new composition of the populations there.

So it touches upon religion, politics and economics.  And it's something -- to quote a very senior person I met this summer in OSCE in Vienna -- he looked at me -- we were talking about these issues -- and he said, "You know, if a regional war breaks out in the Middle East," which is not unlikely, he said, "Europe will be the second victim and Gazprom will be the overlords of Europe," simply because all of Western Europe, with the exception of Norway and UK, will be completely dependent on energy from Russia.

So I'm just illustrating a point, which means that if there is a war in this region and it goes bad, then it will not only change the economics of the globe; it will change completely also the global power structures.  And this is why, I mean, there are many conflicts in Africa which are very difficult, very dangerous, very fragile, but they don't have impacts like this.  And this is why -- this is the uniqueness of the Middle East conflict.  And this is why it's so imperative to resolve them.

My own opinion, if I might volunteer, is that this has to be long-term -- (inaudible).  You do not have a regional organization in the Middle East.  You have the GCC.  You have the Arab League.  But it doesn't encompass Israel.  It doesn't encompass Iran.  And unless you have an (institutional ?) security structure in that region, it will be on the brink all the time.

But to establish this in the near future is impossible, because you will never -- it will be very difficult for many of the Arabs to have the Iranians on board an organization and to have the Israelis and the Iranians on board.  But, I mean, if you look at what is needed, this is what is needed.  But it's pie in the sky to do it tomorrow, but my opinion is that this must be the longer-term goal.  This is also the intertwining of the four conflicts, and they are completely intertwined in the geopolitical global landscape.

HAASS:  Rita Hauser.

QUESTIONER:  (Inaudible.)  I want to come back to a more tactical question with Lebanon, which we've talked about.

The Security Council, under pressure from the U.S. after the Hariri assassination, adopted a Chapter 7 resolution calling for an investigation and a tribunal.  The tribunal hasn't been established yet.  The investigation is ongoing.  The obvious aim was to find out, I assume, who in Syria was responsible for this.

Assuming that one comes to that conclusion, how do you proceed from there?

Or put another way, does the quest for justice sometimes done prematurely interfere with the peacemaking process? 

ROED-LARSEN:  I have to tread very carefully here, firstly, because Rita is my boss -- she's my chairman.  And then --

HAASS:  You're also on the record --

ROED-LARSEN:  Thank you.

It's a very tricky issue, also because there is a special investigate before the murder of Hariri and, I think, 16 or 18 other assassinations and assassination attempts in Lebanon over the last three years, all against politicians, journalists and trade union leaders who were staunchly anti-Syrian.  And of course, it's an extremely sensitive subject.  Mr. Brimmer delivered his last report to the Council -- actually, last week.  But he has chosen not to reveal what kind of findings he had to the Security Council because it has the right address.  But that is the International Tribunal, who will be established very shortly and then they have to assess the evidence which is there, and then the necessary steps.  I am not privy to the details of what's -- Mr. Brimmer has amassed of the -- of evidence.  And if I had it, I couldn't talk about it publicly.

So -- but this is a good -- a very, very sensitive issue and indeed, there is a debate precisely related to your question there, which is the collision between -- sometimes between the quest for justice and the quest for preventing deadly conflict.  It's a strange paradox and there are also some recent cases in Africa -- have very similar traits, and of course, I can just say Libya and Lockerbie.  And this is a real dilemma and as we move towards the conclusions being made public, I think this will become higher and higher on the agenda.  But indeed, there are very hard choices to be made.

HAASS:  The word "dilemma" is overused.  This is a place that is not overused.  (Laughter.) 

But it's -- it actually also has come up a lot in other -- the South Africa example.  How much should that be an example and how much are -- is justice after the shooting stops?  Is the pursuit of that kind of ease, if you will, solidify crisis or conflict prevention and how much can it actually become a problem for you, because it can keep certain wounds, shall we say, from healing?  It's an interesting debate in several -- including what's going on in Northern Ireland now -- it's an interesting debate.

We've got time for a few more questions, comments.

Mr. Burns.

QUESTIONER:  You spoke of tools applied to detailed political analysis.  I would have thought that Lebanon presented an ideal opportunity for that with the Taif Accord because the Taif Accord calls for ultimately reforming electoral law and the militias laying down their arms.  And the U.S. has never really pushed hard for that and -- could you comment on that approach as opposed to 1559's? 

ROED-LARSEN:  Actually, it's exactly what we're saying because the Taif Accord -- the very language in 1559 is taken -- it's actually taken directly from the language of the Taif Accord.  And the Taif Accord calls for the disbanding and disarming of all Lebanese or non-Lebanese militias.  It is verbatim and it is exactly the same sentence in 1559.  So -- which has made it -- it's a kind of interesting point because when I started going to Lebanon on behalf of the secretary-general to implement this resolution, they were basically saying, "We don't want to speak about 1559, but we can talk about Taif."  And of course, I just said, "I don't care what you call the baby.  So if you call it Taif, that's fine with me.  I can call it 1559, you can call it Taif."

But -- and this is, in a way, the beauty of 1559.  It is not an international intervention because there's a complete replica of the demands which are in the Taif Agreement particularly related to the Syrian military withdrawal and, of course, the language concerning the disbanding and disarming of the militias.  But of course, you have the kind of language debates here where Hezbollah is saying, "We are not a militia.  We are a resistance movement."  So it's -- but there -- these two are completely intertwined -- 1559 and Taif. 

QUESTIONER:  You said something today when you were -- in your opening remarks where you talked about the lack of institutional memory and the tendency of policymakers to take approaches as if they had never been taken before.

Two questions.  Do we need more of a -- what's the word? -- a museum of negotiation than we now have?  And second of all -- and just out of curiosity -- what is your sense of the best way to train people in this?  Is it to steep them in the details, say, of Lebanon and Israel and Palestinian politics, economics, culture, what have you?  Or do you think there is something to be said for Negotiation 101 that ought to become a staple for people in your business? 

ROED-LARSEN:  I -- my belief is that the best negotiators I have met are those who have very good academic training because you have to be able to conceptualize when you negotiate and be innovative on the ways to design the process and also on the substantive issues.  So you -- there is a need for very strong academic training. 

But on the other hand, you need learning by doing.  You can't learn just only by reading a book or listening to a lecture, you have to do it.  And this is why -- I mean, there is a toolbox here and the amazing thing that -- I mean, even very well-equipped foreign ministries, they don't seem to have archives because they keep repeating the same mistakes.  And it's completely unnecessary because you could just go into the archives and see what worked and what didn't work.  And amazingly -- I mean, the same mistakes were done -- are being done again and again.  Of course, at some point ministries are exceptions here, but not that many. 

HAASS:  (Laughs.)  Just as an aside, I remember showing up for my first day at work for the previous President Bush.  Every file drawer was empty at the National Security Council because everything had been carted off to presidential libraries.  So you literally started off with a clean desk, shall we say, without a manual for how to proceed.

Mr. Sorensen, I think I saw your right hand somewhat raised. 

Wait for the -- tell you, you've got a microphone heading your way.


I'm Ted Sorensen of Paul, Weiss.

Following up on Richard's question, I want to ask not about Lebanon or Israel or Syria, but about the United States.  I'm concerned about what is almost a cultural malady here.  I'm not talking about any one political party, but about an infection that seems to have affected both political parties in which peace is for weaklings.  The United Nations is for the naive.  Negotiations are soft and so on and on, which makes you a voice in the wilderness, that makes International Peace Academy a lonely outpost and so on.  What can be done about that?  To some extent, I think it's true in Israel as well, but that's a different question.

ROED-LARSEN:  No, I think the efforts which are being done in what is now called the Annapolis process are actually admirable.  But it would have been much better if it happened six years ago because then there would have been a real chance.  But of course, the cards were also very different at the time because then you had the prime minister of Israel who was standing for unilateralism and not negotiations, and you did not have Hamas controlling Gaza and a kind of clean Abu Mazan sitting in the West Bank who's easy to talk to. 

So it's a kind of a little bit unfair criticism because the cards are completely different today.  And in a way, they -- the geopolitical landscape today represents an opportunity for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  But it is also very difficult because in the neighborhood, you have the -- not only peacemakers, you have also peacebreakers.  Because there's nothing in it for them, there will be a temptation to be spoilers.  And you also have kind of conflict entrepreneurs in the region who thrive on keeping the conflict alive.  And if there is the will to spoil, I think there is the capability to spoil. 

And this why I'm saying the chances are maybe slim, particularly if you go for what is needed -- the establishment of the -- of two -- of Palestinian states -- the two-state solution.  And it's very risky because if we fail this time, it might be the last time it's possible to attempt to establish a two-state solution.  And then we might go back to scratch again, where it will be a non-state or one state and that would be a hopeless debate, and we will be stuck with it for decades. 

This is why there's so much at play here.  So this is why I'm very conservative on this because to take huge leaps here are enormously risky.

QUESTIONER:  You have twice -- at least to my count -- been quite critical of the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.  And I expect a defender of it would say it wasn't their first choice, but it was their only choice because the alternative was staying -- that if you had basically said, "We need to negotiate our way out of Gaza," we'd still be there.  How do you -- how would you answer that?

ROED-LARSEN:  You know, I think that's completely wrong, frankly, because if Ariel Sharon, at the time, had said, "Okay, I will sit with Abu Mazan because I understand that if this spring out of a deal, then it will strengthen his allies who do not believe in the use of force and it will weaken the other guys."  And I think there was a complete disregard of the dynamics in Palestinian society.  And I think -- so I mean, it's always a good thing to leave occupied land.  But again, it's the architecture -- the way you do it.  And they did it the wrong way, which paved the way for more violence and paved the way for Hamas' power grab in Gaza.  So it's a tragedy.

HAASS:  We have time for one last one.

Sir, in the back.

QUESTIONER:  My name is Milt Lauenstein.

You talked about learning by doing and most of the conversation has been about a very refractory situation in the Middle East, whether it's been a lot of doing and apparently very little learning.  When we talk about conflict prevention or violence prevention, what do you think about starting in much easier cases small places that are fragile -- nobody cares much about -- addressing them and learning bit by bit in places that are not so difficult? 

ROED-LARSEN:  I think, more -- I mean, all the kind of violent conflicts which I know about today -- both intrastate and between states -- are very difficult.  But what makes -- make -- all of them are very difficult to handle.  But then you have to -- and the U.N. is basically involved in all of them in some way or other.  Trying to resolve by having peacekeepers -- actually, the U.N peacekeepers are now the second largest army in the world, besides the United States.  It's huge.  It's all over the place in Africa and everywhere frankly. 

But what makes the Middle East so unique -- and this is why I'm kind of hammering the Middle East all the time -- is that this is the only global conflict.  Because if it goes bad there -- if you -- if there is a regional war -- the -- (inaudible) -- war between Syria and Lebanon and Iran and neighboring states, et cetera -- I mean, it has such devastating consequences for the whole globe.  If it goes bad in Haiti, it's bad for Haiti and maybe it will have lots of refugees in the United States.  But it wouldn't wreck the global economy.  It wouldn't touch the hearts and minds of everybody around the globe.  This is the uniqueness of it and this is why it's so incredibly dangerous, and why it's so important to give it attention politically and diplomatically. 

HAASS:  I want to thank Terje Roed-Larsen for two things.  One is for what he does every day.  This is someone who has dedicated more years of his life to trying to accomplish good but extraordinarily difficult things than almost anyone I know.  And secondly, I want to thank him for the long -- for this afternoon. 

(Applause, cross talk.)

Thank you so much. 

HAASS:  It is my understanding we're going to have about a 10 or 15-minute break and then we are going to convene with our first panel here at approximately 2:00. 










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