Letter: 'Permanent' is not a word of peace

Sir: It may be helpful in the debate on the difference, if any, between the British government's call for a 'permanent ceasefire' and the IRA's declaration of a 'complete cessation of military operations' to recall the language used in a number of armistice and ceasefire agreements in the past:

In 1945 the unconditional surrender of Germany used the expression 'immediately cease hostilities': the armistice with Italy prescribed 'an immediate cessation of hostilities'; and the armistice with Romania noted that Romania had 'entirely discontinued military operations'.

In the 1949 armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab states, the parties agreed not to 'commit any warlike or hostile act' against each other.

When, in 1953, military operations in Korea were brought to an end, the armistice called for 'a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force'.

The 1962 ceasefire agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands noted that a 'cessation of hostilities' was to take place.

The 1965 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan provided: 'There shall be an immediate ceasefire'.

Even in cases where states have made peace with an internal, armed opposition movement, the wording used closely resembles the language used in inter-state ceasefires.

In 1954 the ceasefire agreements between France and the national liberation movements in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos required 'the complete cessation of hostilities'.

In 1961 the parties to the Algerian conflict signed a ceasefire agreement in which they undertook that their 'military operations and all armed action . . . will end' and that they would 'prohibit recourse to acts of collective and individual violence'.

In 1988 the Nicaraguan government and the Contra rebels signed a preliminary ceasefire agreement that stated 'offensive military operations shall cease' for 60 days. This was to be followed by a 'definitive ceasefire agreement', but instead the parties extended the preliminary agreement.

The 1991 agreement among the parties in the Cambodian conflict provided that 'all forces shall immediately disengage and refrain from all hostilities'.

In none of these formulae does the word 'permanent' appear, and the Korean and the French Indo-China agreements actually use the same words as does the declaration by the IRA: 'complete cessation'.

Yours sincerely,


Research Centre for

International Law

University of Cambridge


9 September