top of page

Finnish Peacemaker Series Captures Many Negotiation Lessons

The truth has many paths. So says Finnish Peacemaker Ann-Mari Sundell.

The little known 2020 Finish series, Peacemaker, incorporates a multiplicity of negotiation and mediation issues.

Comment: This series reminds me of the excellent Star Trek episode focusing on Riva the mediator. Riva was mediating between worlds. Riva was deaf, blind, and emotionless. He had a team of 3 who each substituted these roles.

Google summary of Peacemaker Series:

Finnish peace negotiator Ann-Mari Sundell has recently retired from her post as a crisis response adviser in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Suddenly, she is invited by the UN mandate to lead an international conflict resolution process in Turkey. As the peace talks proceed, Ann-Mari has to reconcile with her past before her personal life comes in the way of the whole peace process.

In order to broker peace, Ann-Mari Sundell must enter unfathomably dangerous situations. Navigating armed conflicts, corrupt governments, and powerful politicians are all in a day’s work. Welcome to the world of international peace negotiations.


Episode one begins with a controversial and startling speech before the United Nations by expert negotiator Anne-Mari Sundell (AM). She exposes a secret deal between a weapons (gun) Finnish manufacturer and Saudi Arabia.

How can the country of Finland conscientiously be involved in a weapons arms deal with a country that does not respect human rights? What about human dignity? I am ashamed to be a Finn today and ashamed of being a European.

Because of this speech and a confidentiality violation, many predicted the end of her career and prosecution. She was suspended by the Foreign Ministry pending prosecution.

But the time was ripe for peacemaking between the country of Turkey and the Kurdish forces. The Finnish Foreign Ministry tagged her as the ideal mediator/negotiator to be hired by the United Nations (UN).


Why was she the ideal peacemaker? She knows the lay of the land. Some people that negotiation is impossible if parties do not understand each other.

Team Building: She must assemble the ideal diverse team. She secures known, experienced negotiators from Turkey, Berlin, Iran, and Helsinki. Each team member has a role in the session: One is the scrivener noting emotions, another one, gathers facts; two others sit behind her to observe.

Planning: The team realizes that planning is vital. Remember the old saying by former US President and General Dwight Eisenhower? Planning is vital. Plans are useless.

Or the quote of former US President Abraham Lincoln: When I go to meet with a person, I spend 1/3 of my time thinking what I am going to say or do and 2/3 of my time thinking of what they are going to say or do.

So, first the team does their research. They discover that a former Oslo deal fell through because of information leakages. They then decide to put nothing online. They then role play, often switching roles.

AM advises her team that no matter how prepared they are, there will be surprises.

Planning-Timing, Why Now: As part of the planning process, an effective negotiator thinks about timing. In this case, the violence has been going on for 30 years, so why the peace talks now? It seems as if it has everything to do with Turkey joining NATO and NATO not wanting to be a part of the ongoing violence. This leads to Turkey wanting to know what more NATO can do for them.

Planning-BATNA: AM advises her team that they must consider BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) and WATNA from the eyes of the parties. The status quo of ongoing violence is always one alternative, probably a WATNA (worst)

Goal Oriented: AM ensures that the team is goal oriented. What is the goal of meeting one? To have a meeting two. The scrivener is seated on her right; fact checker, on the left; and two others behind her. She wants her seat to be slightly higher than anyone else’s (conveying power and control).

Nonverbal communication: AM realizes that 55% of communication meaning comes from body language. She advises her team to show no reactions or emotions. Comment: She would have been well-advised to secure a round or oval table symbolizing “no sides.”

Ground rules or Guidelines: AM laid out 3 ground rules:

  1. Turkey would stop the violence by their troops.

  2. The Kurds will lay down their weapons which will be taken over by an international unit and cease the violence.

  3. They will operate as a group with no one operating independently.

Comment: She fails to follow the Persuasion Law of Involvement. She should have asked them for their suggested ground rules. She should have secured their verbal or nonverbal agreement to these guidelines.

Positions (Demands) v. Interests:

Parties often state demands in a non-negotiable manner:

  • Turkey: I will not negotiate if the issue of Kurdish independence is on the table.

  • Kurds: We will not negotiate unless Turkey recognizes the “mass graves.”

These demands are often stated to convey power.

An effective negotiator distinguishes between positions and interests. Positions are demands: what one says one wants or does not. An effective negotiator queries the parties to understand what underlies those demands. What are their interests? One attempts to discern interests in order to understand better and to set the stage for creativity.

Turkey does not want an independent Kurdistan which first would be a rival and second would diminish the power of Turkey.

The Kurds want Turkey to recognize the mass graves in order to recognize the devastation that the powerful Turkish troops have caused.

Be Goal-Oriented but Discern the Big Picture: An effective negotiator needs to be goal oriented AND walk about the periphery to discern what other issues may have an impact on this situation. Although the parties identified are Turkey and the Kurds, there is also the United Nations, NATO, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United States, and Russia. Russia would like Turkey to be a pawn. The US would like to guide Turkey.

Power: Turkey realizes its power in terms of the large population and the number of square miles. Kurds have gained power by enduring for 30 years plus. AM has power via the United Nations.

Separate Sessions: An effective mediator realizes the power of the tool of caucuses or separate sessions. In the series, the parties are almost at an impasse after the surprise revelation of a new mass grave is introduced. AM calls for separate sessions. In these separate sessions, the mediator can be the “Agent of Reality.” For example, AM was able to confront the Kurds about the fact that the country of Kurdistan has never been recognized. She also declares to them that other countries such as the US considers the Kurds to be “terrorists.”

Honesty=Reputation: Many state the “sing-song” of open and honest, like salt and pepper or bacon and eggs. Effective negotiators do not. They realize these are two separate issues. Honesty is a key component of the reputation of an effective negotiator. Honesty breeds trust and persuades the others to “like” you. If one is trustworthy, one has more power in persuasion.

Open About Information: Openness is not linked to honesty. Openness is strategic. In one of the negotiation sessions, Ann-Mari is surprised to learn that there was a recent discovery of a mass grave of Kurds by Turkish soldiers.

Patience: Patience and persistence are often the key to negotiation success. Note the quote:

A person pushed against their will is of the same opinion still.

An effective negotiator wants each party to take time to examine the information and reach their own conclusions.

Agent of Reality: Often the mediator or negotiator must be the agent of reality. While talking with the Kurds, Ann-Mari realizes that they want their own independent nation, but Turkey will never allow it. Kurds realize they have strength in their numbers, possibly 28 million. Sometimes the ideal cannot be achieved at that moment. Ann-Mari talks with the Kurds about some degree of autonomy including having their own justice system and their own culture and language. This is an improvement over the status quo.

Peace or Settlement is a Question of Will. If parties desire to have peace or to settle, they will do so.


It is clear from the above that there are a multiplicity of issues that effective negotiators need to deal with. This is the reason that negotiation is an art. There are really no answers, but instead, strategies. The Peacemaker Series does capture many of these effective settlement strategies.

Special Note on Kurds: What an amazing complex issue involving 28 million Kurds.

Kurdistan (Kurdish: کوردستان ,Kurdistan [ˌkʊɾdɪˈstɑːn] (listen); lit. "land of the Kurds")[3] or Greater Kurdistan[4][5] is a roughly defined geo-cultural territory in Western Asia wherein the Kurds form a prominent majority population[6] and the Kurdish culture, languages, and national identity have historically been based.[7] Geographically, Kurdistan roughly encompasses the northwestern Zagros and the eastern Taurus mountain ranges.[8]

Kurdistan generally comprises the following four regions: southeastern Turkey (Northern Kurdistan), northern Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), northwestern Iran (Eastern Kurdistan), and northern Syria (Western Kurdistan).

Iraqi Kurdistan first gained autonomous status in a 1970 agreement with the Iraqi government, and its status was re-confirmed as the autonomous Kurdistan Region within the federal Iraqi republic in 2005.[14] There is also a Kurdistan Province in Iran, but it is not self-ruled. Kurds fighting in the Syrian Civil War were able to take control of large sections of northern Syria and establish self-governing regions in an Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, where they call for autonomy in a federal Syria after the war.[15]

Turkish Kurdistan or Northern Kurdistan (Kurdish: Bakurê Kurdistanê) refers to the southeastern part of Turkey, where Kurds form the predominant ethnic group. The Kurdish Institute of Paris estimates that there are 20 million Kurds living in Turkey, the majority of them in the southeast.

Iran never employed the same level of brutality against its own Kurdish population, but has always been staunchly opposed to Kurdish separatism.

Why are Kurds persecuted in Turkey? Nowhere is their future more threatened than in Turkey where Kurds are one quarter of the population. Since World War I, Kurds in Turkey have been the victims of persistent assaults on their ethnic, cultural, religious identity and economic and political status by successive Turkish governments.

The words "Kurds", "Kurdistan", and "Kurdish" were officially banned by the Turkish government. Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in public and private life. Many people who spoke, published, or sang in Kurdish were arrested and imprisoned.


See Recommended Books under “Blogs” drop down menu.

Roy J. Lewicki is the author of 'Essentials of Negotiation', published 2015 under ISBN 9780077862466 and ISBN 0077862465. Publisher: McGraw Hill Higher Education

The Conflict Resolution Training Program, Leader’s Manual, ISBN: 0-7879-6077-2. Prudence Bowman Kestner and Larry Ray

5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Getting Your Way Every Day.


bottom of page