Government negotiation with terrorists

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No negotiation with terrorists refers to a policy followed by mostly Western countries to not negotiate with terrorists. This policy is often applied during hostage crises. Often the policy is limited to not paying ransom demands, and doesn't apply to other forms of negotiation. This policy is intended to remove the incentive for taking hostages. For as long as a country applies this policy on a no-exceptions basis, terrorists can anticipate that there will be no reward for trading hostages.[citation needed]


On June 18, 2013, G8 leaders signed an agreement against paying ransoms to terrorists.[1]

By country[edit]

United States[edit]

The United States has a policy of no negotiation with terrorists for hostages.[2]

There have been heavily criticized incidents in which US government leaders were found to have negotiated with terrorists, with the most notable being the Iran–Contra affair and Barack Obama's negotiation with the Taliban Five.

  • In the Iran–Contra affair, the Reagan administration sought to free seven American hostages being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a paramilitary group with Iranian ties connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps by selling them weapons. The scandal led to the resignation of several high ranking US government officials.
  • In May 2014, the U.S. government secured the release of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo. His release led to attacks by Republican lawmakers, who claimed President Barack Obama had abandoned the decades-old U.S. policy of not negotiating with terrorists.[3]


Israel generally does not negotiate with terrorists.[4]


In January 2015, hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto were beheaded by ISIL after Japan refused to meet ISIL's demand of $200 million for the release of the hostages.[5][6]

United Kingdom[edit]


  • In 1988, the Spanish government negotiated with the ETA six months after the group had killed 21 shoppers in the 1987 Hipercor bombing.[4]

By terrorist organization[edit]

Al Qaeda[edit]

An investigation by The New York Times found that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008. These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, which funneled the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid.[6][7]


There is an issue caused by the fact that some Western countries such as the United States, Canada, Israel, and Britain tend to not negotiate/pay ransom to terrorists, whereas other Western countries such as France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland are more open to negotiation and ransom payment. This creates tension between governments with opposing policies.[1][6] Another area of criticism is that, even though not negotiating with terrorists is the announced policy of a country, at times a country does negotiate with terrorists; whether a country does or does not negotiate with terrorists often depends on which political party rules the country.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Meyer, Josh. "Why the G8 pact to stop paying terrorist ransoms probably won't work—and isn't even such a great idea". Quartz. Retrieved 2017-02-26.
  2. ^ U.S. Department of State Public Affairs Bureau (October 17, 1995), Fact sheet: International terrorism–American hostages, p. 1076, Public Affairs Bureau file B91219207B, retrieved 2017-03-22 – via Evolution of U. S. Counterterrorism Policy by Alexander Kraft (2007)
  3. ^ Powell, Jonathan. "We must negotiate with terrorists: The dirty secret our government does not want to admit". Salon. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d Neumann, Peter R. (2007-01-01). "Negotiating With Terrorists". Foreign Affairs.
  5. ^ "ISIS Beheads Haruna Yukawa: Why The Japanese Hostages Were In Syria". International Business Times. 2015-01-24. Retrieved 2017-02-26.
  6. ^ a b c "Where Exactly Is the Rule That Says Governments Can't Negotiate with Terrorists? - VICE". Vice. Retrieved 2017-02-26.
  7. ^ Callimachi, Rukmini (2014-07-29). "Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-26.