In diplomacy and international relations, shuttle diplomacy is the action of an outside party in serving as an intermediary between (or among) principals in a dispute, without direct principal-to-principal contact. Originally and usually, the process entails successive travel ("shuttling") by the intermediary, from the working location of one principal, to that of another.
The term was first applied to describe the efforts of United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, beginning November 5, 1973, which facilitated the cessation of hostilities following the Yom Kippur War.
Kissinger continued to participate in shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East during the Nixon and Ford administrations (1969–1977); it resulted in the Sinai Interim Agreement (1975) and arrangements between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights (1974). The term became widespread during Kissinger's service as Secretary of State.
Turkey has carried out shuttle diplomacy, often involving Israel: Turkey was Israel's closest ally in the Muslim world, and some Arab countries (notably Syria, which has common borders with Turkey, and with Israel) have been amenable to Turkey, with its own Muslim majority population, taking that role. Another instance took place between Russia and Georgia in 2008.
Proximity talks are similar to shuttle diplomacy, in being a form of indirect negotiations in which the parties do not meet each other face to face but communicate only via a mediator going back and forth and passing proposals and counter-proposals. But unlike shuttle diplomacy, where the mediator goes back and forth between rival capital cities, in proximity talks the two parties consent to have their negotiators in proximity to each other (for example, in two hotels at the same city), which facilitates the work of the mediator and shortens the time which he or she needs to travel back and forth.
A recent case of proximity talks involves the exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hamas, carried out in October 2011 at the conclusion of five years of indirect negotiations. As extensively published in the Israeli media, but not officially confirmed, on several crucial occasions, Israeli and Hamas negotiators were both staying in Cairo, in close proximity to each other, though both officially refused to talk directly to the other. Instead, Egyptian and German mediators went from one to other, passing offers and counteroffer and finally achieving an agreement without Israelis and Palestinians ever meeting each other face to face.
- George Lenczowski, American Presidents and the Middle East, (Duke University Press: 1990), p. 131
- For example: Margulies, Robert E. (December 2002). "How to Win in Mediation" (PDF). New Jersey Lawyer. pp. 53–54. Retrieved 2010-03-21. "After the opening session, the parties usually break into caucus groups, and the mediator utilizes shuttle diplomacy between the groups in order to identify interests and positions of the parties and help them create solutions."
- Dhanani, Gulshan (1982-05-15). "Israeli Withdrawal from Sinai". Economic and Political Weekly (Economic and Political Weekly) 17 (20): 821–822. JSTOR 4370919. "The high points in Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy were:[...] (2) May 1974; the Syrian and the Israeli armies agree to the Golan Heights disengagement"
- "Turkey's Erdogan in shuttle diplomacy in Caucasus". Reuters. 2008-08-13.
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