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Keywords:

  • mediation;
  • civil war;
  • direct talks;
  • indirect talks;
  • bilateral talks

International diplomacy, to the extent it is effective, should not only prevent escalation of low-intensity conflict, but should also facilitate de-escalation. This article focuses on the short-term effects of managing low-intensity civil wars through third-party mediation. Specifically, we compare the efficacy of third party-mediated direct (face-to-face) and indirect talks in low-intensity civil wars from 1993 to 2004 using the Managing Intrastate Low-Intensity Conflict data set. We argue that a focus on short-term success is valid because of the relationship among mediation, short-term success, humanitarian aid access, and peacebuilding. We also assess the roles of mediator identity, mediation strategy (behavior focus versus incompatibility focus), peace agreements, war type, per capita gross domestic product, level of democracy, and conflict duration. Our overarching finding is that direct forms of mediation in which all parties meet face to face were the most likely to yield short-term success in the sample of civil wars that we analyzed.