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Abstract

While arbitration remains more common than mediation as an alternative to litigation in domestic legal disputes, the opposite occurs in resolving violent interstate conflicts, where third-party mediation represents the most frequently employed method of conflict resolution. In order to understand the similarities and differences between international and domestic mediation, this article identifies key attributes of international conflict management generally and third-party mediation of violent disputes specifically, and four critical patterns commonly found in third-party mediation of international conflicts. These patterns, each of which is illustrated with a vignette involving US foreign policy, include: 1) the complex role of mediator bias in interstate conflict mediation, 2) the multiple actors and actions frequently associated with interstate conflict resolution, 3) mediator strategy and outcomes and 4) the importance of selection effects for understanding the deceptive appearance of interstate conflict mediation’s effectiveness. Understanding these processes and recognizing these patterns helps to develop a better understanding of the strengths and weakness involved in the third-party mediation of interstate disputes.

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