FACULTY OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
POLITICAL SCIENCE SEMINAR
THE LIMITS OF MEDIATION DURING THE SYRIAN CRISIS
(ISTANBUL POLICY CENTER)
NOVEMBER 28, 2019
Abstract: Ever since its eruption in 2010, the Arab Spring has penetrated a number of countries in the Middle East. Among these, Syria has been paying the highest toll. Over half a million people have lost their lives and half of the country’s population have been displaced. Mediation has been a widely used tool of conflict resolution during the Syrian crisis by different actors on various levels. Yet, there is no silver lining on the horizon towards a full settlement. This study investigates the limits of mediation during the Syrian crisis. It examines international mediation attempts by states, non-governmental organizations, and international institutions by drawing on Bercovitch and Gartner’s framework of mediation outcomes with a critical view. The study suggests that while Bercovitch and Gartner’s framework, which favors directive strategies applied by international institutions in high-intensity ethnic conflicts, may be useful to explain mediation attempts in simpler conflicts, it fails to fully illuminate mediation attempts in more complex and context-dependent conflicts such as the Syrian Crisis. Mediation in the Syrian crisis has been limited by disagreement among key actors, lack of commitment, coordinated efforts and preference alignment among principle states, questions of representation and legitimacy, and lack of neutrality and inclusiveness.