Wars don't all have to end in a grand Final Battle
. In fact, if the combatants both Know When to Fold 'Em
, they can end the war without either side being crippled or annihilated.
Basically, two deadly enemies have a sit-down discussion, usually in neutral territory. The talks may be of vital importance: if they fail, a war on hold may restart or a new one may begin.
Since not everyone is interested in peace, someone will probably try to sabotage the talks- usually with a False Flag Operation
. Sometimes the more evil side just wants access to the other side's leadership, but typically peace talks are a good sign that neither side
is entirely evil, and both are in fact fairly reasonable.
Of course, sometimes the peace conference is a trap
, and the villains have no intention of negotiating in good faith; merely in luring the opposition into a place where it can be stomped out for good.
This trope also encompasses arms control negotiations and longer-lasting talks. While there's some superficial resemblance to a Hostage Situation
, the two tropes really aren't related.
If the conflict lasts long enough, a third, neutral party may be required to Reconcile The Bitter Foes
characters may take this chance to pull a Genghis Gambit
, causing both sides to put off their differences in the face of some new threat. Hardliners may conspire to sabotage the conference as a Pretext for War
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Films — Live-Action
- The description of this trope could perfectly serve as a description of the Khitomer Accords between The Federation and the Klingons in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and the backstory to Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- The Mouse That Roared - the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, having declared war on the U.S. for the express purpose of being defeated and showered with reparation money, finds themselves winning, by seizing an ultimate nuclear weapon. The peace terms with the U.S. representative include having a California winery cease producing a cheap rip-off of their chief export pinot (their reason for going to war), a request for a million dollars in aid (the U.S. rep protests that they may have to settle for a billion, not a paltry million, but the Fenwick rep reminds him they won), and a proposal that the bomb be held by the little countries of the world as leverage against the superpowers going to nuclear war.
- The climax of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows revolves around the heroes trying to stop an assassination at one of these at Reichenbach, organized to deal with the political crisis created by Moriarty's acts of terror. But their actions merely ended up delaying The Great War by twenty-odd years.
- In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Mystique plans to murder Trask during the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.
- At the beginning of The Sixth Battle, peace negotiations between the ANC and South Africa's apartheid government are seriously disrupted when extremist whites fly two remote-controlled Cessnas filled with explosives into the building holding South Africa's Parliament, killing F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. Pretoria guesses correctly that when the talks later appear to be making progress, the
Soviet Eurasian-supported Front Line States will launch an attack.
- Timothy Zahn's Hand of Thrawn duology had, as one of a great many plot points, the Supreme Commander of the Imperial Remnant, Pellaeon, realizing that the only way what was left of the Empire would survive was if they signed a peace treaty with the New Republic. Of course some of his people resisted, leading to about three-fourths of the events of that duology as they kidnapped his diplomatic envoy, sent pirates masquerading as New Republic forces to attack him, and decided to make it look like the greatest military mind the galaxy had known was Back from the Dead and didn't want the war to end. Eventually, Pellaeon prevailed. And it worked, even if there were still factions that refused to accept this.
- Preventing one of these from happening between Manticore and Haven is a major plot point in At All Costs and the failure of the previous one is the major reason for the resumption of hostilities in War of Honor.
- Also featured prominently in Mission of Honor and A Rising Thunder, though it's not quite as formal as most. And by "not quite as formal" we mean "the President of the Republic of Haven shanghaied most of her Cabinet and paid an unannounced call on the queen of Manticore". Yeah.
- Subverted in a short gag in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy with G'Gugvuntts and Vl'hurgs - they only appear in the midst of the conference, and, inspired by the words of Arthur Dent traveling through a freak wormhole, decide to form an alliance against Earth. They fail to reckon scale into their strategy, and thus their entire fleet is swallowed by a small dog.
- Star Trek: Forged in Fire features a conference between the Klingons and the Federation, although this is a few years before the successful conference at Khitomer. Some ground work is laid here.
- Toward the end of Belisarius Series. In this case it was in a weird way a Peace Conference between allies; in a way. The Emperor of the Malwa had recently overthrown the one who had started the war and was simply clearing up loose ends. Thus in the last campaign he actually had been an ally. In the peace conference the new emperor was giving himself a reasonable sized empire to begin his dynasty with, and letting his empire's former enemies worry about dividing the Plunder, a straightforward job for the most part as most of them just kept what they had conquered except for a massive palace with a hoard so big that it would inevitably be an object of interimperial rivalry if any one kept it. This problem was solved by donating it all to charity.
- Doctor Who did this twice in the Pertwee era:
- "The Mind of Evil" has the Master hijacking a chemical-armed missile aiming to use it on a world peace conference.
- That conference didn't work, as another one was held a year later to stop a situation turning into World War III. In "Day of the Daleks," a bomb going off starts that war and leads to the Daleks taking over Earth, which was what some guerrillas have traveled back in time to prevent by killing the man they thought was responsible. He wasn't and by blowing up the conference themselves, they caused their own problem. The Doctor is able to prevent this from occurring.
- As stated by the opening Babylon 5 was designed to be a place for settling disputes diplomatically. It didn't go so well.
- The end of Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars has one take place between the Sebaceans and the Scarrans aboard Moya.
- The original Battlestar Galactica opened with a peace conference intended to end a thousand-year war between the human Twelve Colonies and the Cylons. For anyone who a.) hasn't seen the original Battlestar Galactica yet b.) nonetheless cares about spoilers, the "peace conference" is really an evil and almost entirely successful plot by the bad guys to lure the good guys into a trap and wipe them out.
- The new one starts with something similar, but different: The Colonies and the Cylons had an Armistice Line, and an agreement to meet once a year on a little station on the line where representatives of each side would presumably sit across a table from one another, stare at each other for a while, and then go home. This arrangement is remarkably similar to the arrangement for the Panmunjom Conference between the US-led UN coalition and North Korea set up at the end of The Korean War and has been going on continuously ever since (see Real Life, below). Except...the Cylons don't send anyone. Ever. No one has seen the Cylons presumably since the peace agreement 40 years before the series begins. Eventually, the Cylons walk in one fateful meeting and shoot the Colonial representative, starting the war.
- The final season of 24 revolves around a UN-sponsored peace conference to end Kamistan's nuclear weapons programme.
- Babel One in Star Trek: Enterprise, the peace negotiations between the Tellarites and Andorians which mark the first step towards The Federation.
- In Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Jason, Zack and Trini were written out of the show by being sent to a Teen Peace Summit. "Sent to a peace conference" proceeded to become the production team's euphemism for what we call being Put on a Bus.
- Command & Conquer: Generals 2: Most of the world's politicians and diplomats go to one of these... And thanks to terrorists, they don't come back, leaving the eponymous Generals to seize control of all the nations.
- Suikoden III opens with a cease-fire agreement being negoiated by the Grassland Clans and the Zexen Confederacy, while the Holy Kingdom of Harmonia is waiting for a secret treaty to expire so they can launch a new offensive. Needless to say, since this is the start of the game, the treaty meeting doesn't go well.
- Killer7 states at the beginning that the first appearance of the Heaven Smiles were at a World Peace Conference. The video accompanying it shows one of them detonating during a signing ceremony.
- In the Soviet campaign of Red Alert 3, Cherdenko uses one as a trap to decapitate the Allied leadership.
- One mission in the Allied campaign in the Yuri's Revenge expansion to Red Alert 2 centres around a peace conference between the Allies and the Soviets, with the aim to stop shooting at each other and focus on shooting at Yuri's forces. Despite Yuri's attempts to interfere or taking advantage of most world leaders being gathered in London, it succeeds.
- In Advance Wars 2, Adder uses one as a trap against Yellow Comet's commanders. Kanbei insisted on at least hearing Adder out, despite Sonja's objections.
- The intro to Starlancer shows the Coalition and the Alliance meeting for peace talks, when the Coalition reveals it has brought a cloaked armada and proceeds to wipe out a large chunk of the Alliance Space Navy. Despite this, the war lasts nearly a century.
- In Final Fantasy VI, after some Espers destroy the imperial capital Vector, The Empire invites The Returners to offer a cease-fire and invite them to help negotiate with the Espers— a peace conference to set the stage for another peace conference. This turns out to be a trap for the Espers, which leads in to the second half of the game.
- Used in Wargame: European Escalation, at the end of a campaign which proposes that West and East Germany went to war over the defection of Werner Weinhold. The final mission involves holding off a Warsaw Pact attack on a NATO salient, with a timer ticking down until a ceasefire agreement in signed. The Pact forces bring out one last offensive push as the timer goes to zero—only for the negotiations to deadlock and the mission to continue for a few minutes more!
- Star Trek Online:
- Episode "From the Ashes", mission "Turning Point". The Federation and Klingon Empire meet on Khitomer to decide whether they're going to grant political recognition to D'Tan's Romulan Republic movement. The Tal Shiar, State Sec to The Remnant of the Romulan Star Empire, tries to sabotage the conference and frame the Republic as untrustworthy. Thanks to Republic Commander Temer Jumping on a Grenade to save Klingon Ambassador Woldan, the attempt backfires.
- Mission "Surface Tension". In the face of the Undine stepping up their war on the Alpha and Beta Quadrant superpowers, culminating in a massive offensive against Earth and Qo'noS, the Federation and the Klingon Empire declare an armistice, ending the war that had supposedly* been going for the last five years straight.
- The peace talks between the Earth army and the Brain Balls of Futurama, headed by Henry Kissinger and Bender of all people/robots/severed heads. It was actually a ploy by Nixon and Brannigan, unknown to the negotiators, to use Bender as a bomb.
- In Spider-Man: The Animated Series, Chameleon tries to disrupt the singing of a peace treaty between two long-warring nations.
- The Ur Example (in the West at least) is the Congress of Westphalia of 1648, where all the princes great and small involved in the Thirty Years' War got their heads together to end both this war and the Eighty Years' War. In the process, the Congress defined the concept of state sovereignty and declared piracy universally illegal, giving any country the right to try any pirate it caught.
- The next few centuries were peppered with peace conferences, the most famous being the Congress of Vienna (1815) to end the Napoleonic Wars, the Congress of Berlin (1878) to reorganize the Balkans, and the Paris Peace Conference (1919) to end World War One.
- Since the Big One at Paris, these aren't so common; the United Nations more or less exists to serve as a permanent peace conference. However, some important ones occurred after the The Great Politics Mess-Up (the 1995 one at Dayton settling the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the 1993 one at Oslo between the Israelis and Palestinians being the most notable).
- One problem with the "permanent peace conference" idea was that such conferences generally occurred after wars between the Great Powers. However, the founding of the UN came alongside the end of World War II, which brought with it the ultimate deterrent to war between the Great Powers. The UN has since turned its attention to other endeavors, some successful (e.g. many of its humanitarian programs), some disastrous (e.g. the Iraqi Oil for Food program in The Nineties), and some more mixed (e.g. peacekeeping).
- In the United States, the best known are the Panmunjom Truce talks during the Korean War which led to the cease fire; and the Paris Peace Accords which ended the direct American involvement in the Vietnam War. Neither one has good connotations for Americans. As pointed out in Mash, the Panmunjom talks spent years arguing on the shape of the conference table (which was a Red Herring for the real issues). The Paris Peace Accords were quickly broken by North Vietnam, which attacked and defeated South Vietnam.
- The Panmunjom talks are perhaps the oddest peace conference (not a grammatical error, there were a lot of talks for one official conference) in history. The talks were started on a cease-fire, so technically North Korea and the U.S. led U.N. coalition are still at war. Every month the two delegations meet and just stare at each other for two hours. Occasionally there's an incident or an attempt for diplomacy.
- One of the funniest parts of American Military History is reading about the talks, though it is black humor since so many people died during the arguments. Basically, if one side did anything out of the ordinary, like bring a little flag to the talks, then the other side would immediately one-up them, to the point where the flags became bigger than the meeting rooms. The Chinese representative also became famous for being able to simply sit without movement for hours, even letting a fly crawl across his face.
- The 1998 talks at Stormont Castle in Stroke Country that led to the Good Friday Agreement, bringing an end of the worst of The Troubles.
- And then, because Sinn Fein and the DUP are assholes (or extremists, or principled, or whatever you like), the whole thing broke down again, requiring another conference and another agreement at St. Andrews (in Scotland; and yes, it's the place with the golf course) in 2006.
- In a way Real Life peace conferences are theater because the negotiations all took place beforehand. No head of state can politically afford to come to a Peace Conference without returning with a treaty so doing negotiations in person hurts a head of states bargaining ability. Therefore proper peace conferences should be done secretly and the alleged Peace Conference is only to solemnize it with a lot of pomp.
- This is a lot truer today than it was in the past, primarily because of increased speed of communication. The aforementioned Paris Peace Conference actually got a great deal done; while telegraphs could send messages quickly, they were useless for negotiation, and the only way to cross long distances was by ship or train. Now, with telephones, airplanes, and (increasingly) the Internet, settling things beforehand is much easier, and you can ensure that the underlings who are doing it stick to your policy (rather than have to show up in person if you want to get anything done your way).
- The nuclear negotiations in Geneva in November 2013 between the representatives of the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, China (collectively the P5+1) and Iran are a rare case in the modern world of the actual official conference between high-level officials (foreign ministers) being where the actual deal was made. This was necessary in part because the backchannels are not as strong between the US and Iran as they are in many cases, and in part because this conference was as much a trust-building exercise as an attempt to resolve substantive issues (the actual agreement set up a temporary freeze on Iranian nuclear activity in exchange for easing of sanctions and a commitment to further talks). The negotiations were largely secret, but cameras were allowed in every now and again; they revealed the negotiations were being held in the most ordinary-looking hotel conference room ever, the result of a double-booking. Seriously—the delegations were reduced to eating takeout because the hotel was overcommitted on catering the other event (the Iranians opted for Iranian food from a local restaurant that did delivery, while the Americans and Brits apparently split pizzas).
- According to one version of the story, Henry Kissinger, during the Yom Kippur war was disappointed to get a message from Nixon telling that he spoke with the President's authority. The reason was that he wanted enough ambiguity to prolong the Peace Conference and give the Israelis time enough to get their Revenge before the war stopped.
- More specifically he wanted the war to end in a condition where both sides had shown enough badassery to neither feel humiliated or feel overarrogant toward their rival. While it sounds and is a rather gruesome sort of logic, in Israeli-Egyptian relations at least it more or less worked as planned; there is peace if not friendship. With the Syrians (who pretty much got their clocks cleaned) not so much, though at least they haven't challenged the Israelis in a conventional battle since then.