Prenegotiations, despite their misleading name, are the first stage of negotiations. Perhaps more readily understood by the term ‘talks about talks’, their job is to establish that substantive, around-the-table negotiations are worthwhile, and then to agree the agenda and the necessary procedures for tackling it. In bilateral relationships, these discussions are usually informal and well out of the public gaze. However, in multilateral diplomacy where the parties are more numerous and procedure more complex, a good part of the prenegotiations might be both formal and well-advertised. For example, the substantive stage of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which had 35 participating states and culminated in the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, was preceded by nine months of ‘Multilateral Preparatory Talks’ that produced a ‘Blue Book’ containing their recommendations (Alexander: 29–34).
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