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To catch you up, zoom in on 2012: the U.S. and Iran meet amidst mutual suspicion, despite 35 years of diplomatic silence. From there, negotiators met in secret for two years around the Iranian nuclear program and international security. But even after meetings turned public, they hesitated to build personal bonds with their counterparts. Diplomats ate meals separately…for 20 months. “At a certain point, it just started to feel strange that they had never actually shared a meal together,” an aide for the U.S. team said.
The first two parts of this series established relationships as the cornerstone to building trust in negotiations. In the absence of trust, policymakers built informal relationships for twenty years before formalizing diplomatic relationships. Even after returning to diplomatic functions, representatives met in private to build a foundation in personal relationships before taking the risk of making negotiations public.