Peace Negotiations and Civilian Targeting


Does the participation of armed actors in peace talks influence their strategy of targeting civilians? I argue that before peace talks belligerents have incentives to demonstrate their military strength and respect for humanitarian standards to international third parties. Thus, they are more likely to spare civilians and discriminately target enemy combatants before international talks. Using change point analysis and surrogate data testing on the daily casualty and territorial control data for the Syrian Civil War, I show that belligerents engaged in negotiations incite more combatant and fewer civilian casualties in the enemy territory immediately before an international meeting is to be held. These findings underscore that international parties can drive combatants to avoid violence against civilians by inviting them to peace talks.

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