Q&A: Informal Mediation and Diplomacy


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Q&A: Informal Mediation and Diplomacy

20 Aug 2018

On the 15th of August 2018, our MEI Research Fellow Serkan Yolacan gives an interview with the Conciliators Guild on informal mediation and diplomacy.

Interviewer: Tell us about your findings regarding how ‘cultural brokers’ have been successful in playing a mediation role between Iran and Turkey, and Turkey and Russia.

Serkan Yolacan: Conflict resolution is only one part of a broad range of interstate mediations I look at in my book. Some of these cases concern backdoor economic engagements such as the infamous ‘gold-for-gas’ trade between Iran and Turkey from 2012 to 2013. To circumvent the biting US sanctions on Iran, Turkey transferred billions of dollars’ worth of gold for Iranian natural gas via Dubai. The entire operation was carried out on the back of an Azeri businessman who held Turkish and Iranian passports and had business and family ties in Tehran, Dubai, and Istanbul. His ability to gain the trust of both the Turkish and Iranian leaderships was in no small measure tied to his roots in the Iranian city of Tabriz, his family business in Tehran, his business experience in Dubai and Istanbul, his marriage to a popular Turkish singer, and his reputation as a lyricist in the Turkish music industry. Thanks to his cultural and economic immersion in both countries, he could offer himself as an informal link by which two neighbor states could circumvent the economic straightjacket put on them by the US sanctions.

More of the interview can be accessed here.

1 Comment

  • Kelvin Koh

    An interesting take on how a historical political tool is still alive and relevant in international politics today. While there is an emphasis on the characteristics of informal diplomacy in Non-Western relations, it may be an oversight to dismiss or downplay such track ii diplomacy occurring in the West. An example may be the Oslo Accords, which was initiated by Norwegian academic before transitioning into a formal discussion. A future curious endeavor may be to examine how different cultural norms results in different characteristics of informal diplomacy existing within different cultures.

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