Negotiating with the Devil

Inside the World of Armed Conflict Mediation

February 2024 9781911723110 224 pp
Available as an eBook
EU Customers


After many years in the little-known world of back-channel mediation, helping sworn adversaries to prevent, manage or resolve conflict, Pierre Hazan felt compelled to re-examine the acute practical and ethical dilemmas that affected his work in Bosnia, Ukraine, the Sahel and the Central African Republic. What is the mediator’s responsibility when two belligerents conclude a peace agreement to the detriment of a third? Should mediators never be party to ‘ethnic cleansing’, even if it saves lives? Is a fragile peace worth sacrificing justice for—or will that sacrifice fuel another cycle of violence?

In an increasingly dystopian world, Negotiating with the Devil offers both practical guidelines and a moral compass for mediators whose field of action has transformed dramatically. We have gone from soft to hard power; from ‘peace dividends’ to war in Europe; from the end of one Cold War to a new East–West confrontation in Ukraine; from Pax Americana to a multipolar world; from the dream of an all-powerful UN to the organisation’s marginalisation.

Against this tapestry, Hazan sheds light on the complex work of those steering peace negotiations, blending vivid first-hand observation with sharp insights into the psychology of compromise as a first step towards peace.


‘You need to deal with everyone — including the really bad guys.’ Read Pierre Hazan’s interview with the Telegraph Magazine.

‘[A] short and elegant … book.’ — TLS

‘A breathtaking, demanding, but vital read … [that] highlights the complexities of the world’s security apparatus today, and the need to find a new, shared international ethos.’ — The Scotsman

‘An impassioned, informed insight into the complexities facing mediators in an increasingly complex, fragmented world.’ — Morning Star

‘A cracking read with impressive research credentials.’ — Irish Independent 

‘Enriched by a plethora of anecdotes. …An engaging and accessible read.’ — LSE Review of Books

‘Analyses with finesse what this quest for dialogue means in an increasingly chaotic world where the West is no longer hegemonic.’ — Le Monde

‘Revisits the last thirty years in the theatre of mass crimes from Bosnia to the Sahel, from Ukraine to Afghanistan.’ — Liberation

‘Lifts the veil on the dilemmas and pitfalls of mediation in armed conflicts.’ — Le Figaro

‘An enlightening and stimulating book on mediation in armed conflicts.’ — Le Temps

‘Former journalist, and now advisor to the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, Pierre Hazan has written Negotiating with the Devil. In this stimulating opus, the author examines mediation in times of war.’ — Le Croix

‘An enlightening book on [Hazan’s] experience as a mediator in armed conflicts.’ – Le Pèlerin

‘A strong defence of the importance of negotiation in the middle of a conflict.’ — Responsible Statecraft

‘There are only two ways when war finishes. One is through military victory and the other one is through mediation and negotiation.’ Pierre Hazan in conversation with Hugo Rifkind on Times Radio:

‘An engrossing look at the moral dilemmas and shifting political imperatives in conflict mediation. With his usual uncompromising honesty, and drawing on his rich personal experience as a mediator, Hazan eschews easy answers and bright lines in considering when to talk with the most evil forces, and when compromise and neutrality can become complicity.’  — Reed Brody, author of To Catch a Dictator

‘Peace or Justice? Engagement or sanctions? Neutrality or impartiality? Such critical dilemmas animate this fascinating book about conflict mediation in which Hazan draws from his significant field experiences to offer fresh answers.’ — Ruti Teitel, Director of the Institute for Global Law, Justice and Policy, author of Globalizing Transitional Justice

‘Hazan plunges the reader into the fray of conflicts, in search of possible links bringing warring parties together. Far from a heroic account, based on long experience in the field, he exposes the harsh dilemmas and necessary compromises of a little known action.’ — Rony Brauman, former president of Médecins Sans Frontières, and author of Humanitarian Wars?: Lies and Brainwashing

Can compromises for peace justify sacrifices in justice, or do they risk inciting further violence? Pierre Hazan in conversation with Claire Hajaj at the Conduit:

‘A gem. Pierre Hazan’s elegant introduction to mediating in armed conflict catches both the art and the moral dilemmas of modern peace making.’ — David Harland, Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue

‘Fast paced in style yet profound in substance, this is an important book and also an excellent read … Hazan deals with the troublesome complexities in an admirably clear way. This book deserves the widest audience– not just among experts and practitioners, but among general readers too. Hazan’s learning, experiences and style of writing means both groups will be amply rewarded.’ — Andrew Gilmour, former UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights

Pierre Hazan and the New Lines magazine’s Lydia Wilson discuss Negotiating with the Devil and the underlying tension between choosing to pursue peace on the one hand or justice on the other:

‘In an elegant essay on the moral and strategic dilemmas of mediation in violent conflict, the author draws on an immeasurably rich reservoir of personal experience.’ — Ulf Engel, Professor of Politics in Africa, Institute for African Studies, University of Leipzig, and Adviser to the African Union Department of Peace and Security

‘Hazan masterfully analyses the evolution of the ethical dilemmas of those who mediate armed conflicts … A book full of intellect and at the same time full of love for humanity.’ — Carlos Alvarado-Quesada, former President of Costa Rica (2018-2022), Professor of Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA

‘Hazan provides important insights into a world mostly hidden from the public view.’ — Wolfgang Ischinger, Former German Ambassador to the United States

‘In a fragmented world marked by international tensions, deals are essentially transactional and fragile.’ Pierre Hazan talks to John Milnes-Smith in the World Today magazine about the Israel–Hamas war, the ethical challenges facing conflict mediators and how a peace in Ukraine might be mediated. Read the full interview here.


Pierre Hazan is a senior advisor with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Formerly a Harvard Law School fellow, United States Institute of Peace fellow and Libération diplomatic correspondent, he has advised NGOs, governments and armed groups on justice, amnesty, reparation, truth commissions, forced disappearances, international humanitarian law and human rights.

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