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16 / 06 / 2004
Johan Galtung, expert in peace negotiations: “The world's main terrorist is in Washington”

The Forum’s 141 Questions (38): “Can we negotiate with terrorism?” Norwegian Johan Galtung, professor of peace studies, responded ironically “you can always negotiate…with the United States.” He pointed out that terrorism is never justifiable and that violence comes from a yet unsolved conflict. In his opinion, Spain should still confront a necessary process of reconciliation after the Civil War. “This process of reconciliation also contributes to bringing the governments of Madrid and Vitoria closer together.”

More information about Conflicts in everyday life

Johan Galtung, professor of peace studies at the University of Hawaii, the Universty of Witten/Herdecke, the European University of Peace and the University of Tromsoe, said today at the Haima Stage that the United States has carried out seventy military interventions since World war II in which between 12 and 16 million people have died, 95% of whom were civilians. “Hitler caused the death of 11 million people. Without a doubt the main terrorist in the world today is in Washington.”

Before an audience of five hundred people and always entertaining, Galtung said that in order to solve the problems in Iraq “we must free Sadam with a moral sentence, work toward reconciliation with the Baas party, understand the situation in an impossible country and the United States must compensate the Iraqi people with 300 billion dollars ... and if necessary, other countries who participated in the war can contribute to this figure.”

Johan Galtung, crisis negotiator in countries like Rwanda, Korea, Iraq, Northern Ireland, etc. said that in order to solve a conflict it is necessary to find out where it comes from and look for a way to solve it. In regards to the methods, this expert in peace solutions, explained that there are three phases: “First off identifying the participants, recognizing their objectives and finding their contradictions; secondly distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate objectives; finally building bridges between legitimate positions.”

He also referred to the qualities needed for valid interlocutors. He said it is preferable to avoid mandatory principles “because they usually maintain closed positions; it’s better to seek out open-minded people, promote dialogues that are an investment in the future.” Finally he revealed the magic formula for a politician to understand the proposed solution: “It should never be longer than four words.” Along these lines he recalled his experience in resolving a border conflict in Peru and Ecuador: “Fifty years were spent searching for a solution to the border conflict. I proposed a bi-national area and a nature park. In September 1998 they signed an agreement based on four words, “bi-national area, nature park.”

In regards to Euskadi –“I started dancing in Melbourne when I heard the PP had lost the elections; I can’t imagine anyone like Aznar shaking Ibarretxe’s hand–, Galtung said he would add three points to the Basque leader’s plan: “give the last word to the Basque Country but obligate dialogue in case of disagreement; change the Constitution so that it offers solutions when no one is in the right; open up a process of reconciliation and truth, the truth about ETA, about GAL, about who Mr. X was...”. In thus context he said Spain should open up a reconciliation process that had been pending since the Civil War. And back to the Basque Country, said “I am 73 years and in excellent health; I’ll live to see the solution.”

He described the Catalans’ negotiations as “intelligent”: “The wisdom of clever people; the policy of small steps leads to things, like the spirit of salesmen.”

Johan Galtung, one of the speakers at the dialogue “Conflicts in Everyday Day” is a mathematician, honorary doctor at many universities and winner of the ‘Right Livelihood Award’ (1987) and ‘Norwegian Humanis Prize’ (1988).