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A truce--not a compromise, but a chance for high-toned gentlemen to retire gracefully from their very civil declarations of war
By Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly, February 17, 1877, p. 132. Tilden or blood.jpg
A truce—not a compromise, but a chance for high-toned gentlemen to retire gracefully from their very civil declarations of war
By Thomas Nast in Harper's Weekly , February 17, 1877, p. 132.

A ceasefire (also known as a truce or armistice [1] ), also spelled cease fire (the antonym of 'open fire' [2] ), is a stoppage of a war in which each side agrees with the other to suspend aggressive actions, often due to mediation by a third party. [3] [4] Ceasefires may be between state actors or involve non-state actors. [1]


Ceasefires may be declared as part of a formal treaty, but also as part of an informal understanding between opposing forces. [2] They may occur via mediation or otherwise as part of a peace process or be imposed by United Nations Security Council resolutions via Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. [2]

The immediate goal of a ceasefire is to stop violence, but the underlying purposes of ceasefires vary. Ceasefires may be intended to meet short-term limited needs (such as providing humanitarian aid), manage a conflict to make it less devastating, or advance efforts to peacefully resolve a dispute. [1] An actor may not always intend for a ceasefire to advance the peaceful resolution of a conflict, but instead give the actor an upper hand in the conflict (for example, by re-arming and repositioning forces or attacking an unsuspecting adversary), which creates bargaining problems that may make ceasefires less likely to be implemented and less likely to be durable if implemented. [3] [1] [5]

The durability of ceasefire agreements is affected by several factors, such as demilitarized zones, withdrawal of troops and third-party guarantees and monitoring (e.g. peacekeeping). Ceasefire agreements are more likely to be durable when they reduce incentives to attack, reduce uncertainty about the adversary's intentions, and when mechanisms are put in place to prevent accidents from spiraling into conflict. [3]


Ceasefire agreements are more likely to be reached when the costs of conflict are high and when the actors in a conflict have lower audience costs. [6] Scholars emphasize that war termination is more likely to occur when actors have more information about each other, when actors can make credible commitments, and when the domestic political situation makes it possible for leaders to make war termination agreements without incurring domestic punishment. [7]

By one estimate, there were at least 2202 ceasefires across 66 countries in 109 civil conflicts over the period 1989–2020. [1]

Historical examples

Historically, the concept of a ceasefire existed at least by the time of the Middle Ages, when it was known as a 'truce of God'. [8]

World War I

During World War I, on December 24, 1914, there was an unofficial ceasefire on the Western Front as France, the United Kingdom, and Germany observed Christmas. There are accounts that claimed the unofficial ceasefire took place throughout the week leading to Christmas, and that British and German troops exchanged seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches. [9] The ceasefire was brief but spontaneous. Beginning when German soldiers lit Christmas trees, it quickly spread up and down the Western Front. [10] One account described the development in the following words:

It was good to see the human spirit prevailed amongst all sides at the front, the sharing and fraternity. All was well until the higher echelons of command got to hear about the effect of the ceasefire, whereby their wrath ensured a return to hostilities. [11]

There was no peace treaty signed during the Christmas truce, and the war resumed after a few days.

British and German officers after arranging the German handover of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the surrounding area, negotiated during a temporary truce, April 1945 The Liberation of Bergen-belsen Concentration Camp, April 1945 BU4068.jpg
British and German officers after arranging the German handover of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the surrounding area, negotiated during a temporary truce, April 1945

Karachi Agreement

The Karachi Agreement of 1949 was signed by the military representatives of India and Pakistan, supervised by the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, establishing a cease-fire line in Kashmir following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. [12]

Korean War

On November 29, 1952, the US president-elect, Dwight D. Eisenhower, went to Korea to see how to end the Korean War. With the UN's acceptance of India's proposed armistice, the ceasefire between the UN Command on the one side and the Korean People's Army (KPA) and the People's Volunteer Army (PVA) on the other took hold at approximately the 38th parallel north. These parties signed the Korean Armistice Agreement on July 27, 1953 [13] [14] but South Korean President Syngman Rhee, who attacked the ceasefire proceedings, did not. [15] Upon agreeing to the ceasefire which called upon the governments of South Korea, the United States, North Korea and China to participate in continued peace talks, the principal belligerents of the war established the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and it has since been patrolled by the joint Republic of Korea Army, US, and UN Command on the one side and the KPA on the other. The war is considered to have ended at that point even though there still is no peace treaty.

Vietnam War

On New Years Day, 1968, Pope Paul VI convinced South Vietnam and the United States to declare a 24-hour-truce. However, the Viet Cong and North Vietnam did not adhere to the truce, and ambushed the 2nd Battalion, Republic of Vietnam Marine Division, 10 minutes after midnight in Mỹ Tho. The Viet Cong would also attack a U.S. Army fire support base near Saigon, causing more casualties. [16]

On January 15, 1973, US President Richard Nixon ordered a ceasefire of the aerial bombings in North Vietnam. The decision came after Henry Kissinger, the National Security Advisor to the President, returned to Washington, D.C., from Paris, France, with a draft peace proposal. Combat missions continued in South Vietnam. By January 27, 1973, all parties of the Vietnam War signed a ceasefire as a prelude to the Paris Peace Accord.

Gulf War

After Iraq was driven out of Kuwait by US-led coalition forces during Operation Desert Storm, Iraq and the UN Security Council signed a ceasefire agreement on March 3, 1991. [17] Subsequently, throughout the 1990s, the U.N. Security Council passed numerous resolutions calling for Iraq to disarm its weapons of mass destruction unconditionally and immediately. Because no peace treaty was signed after the Gulf War, the war still remained in effect, including an alleged assassination attempt of former US President George H. W. Bush by Iraqi agents while on a visit to Kuwait;[ citation needed ] Iraq being bombed in June 1993 as a response, Iraqi forces firing on coalition aircraft patrolling the Iraqi no-fly zones, US President Bill Clinton's bombing of Baghdad in 1998 during Operation Desert Fox, and an earlier 1996 bombing of Iraq by the US during Operation Desert Strike. The war remained in effect until 2003, when US and UK forces invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime from power.

Kashmir conflict

A UN-mediated ceasefire was agreed between India and Pakistan, on 1 January 1949, ending the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 (also called the 1947 Kashmir War). Fighting broke out between the two newly independent countries in Kashmir in October 1947, with India intervening on behalf of the princely ruler of Kashmir, who had joined India, and Pakistan supporting the rebels. The fighting was limited to Kashmir, but, apprehensive that it might develop into a full-scale international war, India referred the matter to the UN Security Council under Article 35 of the UN Charter, which addresses situations "likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace". The Security Council set up the dedicated United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, which mediated for an entire year as the fighting continued. After several UN resolutions outlining a procedure for resolving the dispute via a plebiscite, a ceasefire agreement was reached between the countries towards the end of December 1948, which came into effect in the New Year. The Security Council set up the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to monitor the ceasefire line. [18] India declared a ceasefire in Kashmir Valley during Ramadan in 2018. [19]

Northern Ireland

The Irish Republican Army held several Christmas ceasefires (usually referred to as truces) during the Northern Ireland conflict. [20] [21]

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Christmas Eve Ceasefire Vigil at the White House in Washington, D.C. on 24 December 2023 117a.CeaseFireVigil.WH.WDC.24December2023 (53451851200).jpg
Christmas Eve Ceasefire Vigil at the White House in Washington, D.C. on 24 December 2023

An example of a ceasefire in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict was announced between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority on February 8, 2005. When announced, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat publicly defined the ceasefire as follows: "We have agreed that today President Mahmoud Abbas will declare a full cessation of violence against Israelis anywhere and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will declare a full cessation of violence and military activities against Palestinians anywhere." [22] On November 21, 2023, Qatar announced that they had negotiated a truce between Israel and Hamas would pause Gaza fighting, allow for the release of some hostages and bring more aid to Palestinian civilians. As part of the deal, 50 Hamas held hostages are to be released while Israel will release 150 Palestinian prisoners. [23]

Syrian Civil War

Several attempts have been made to broker ceasefires in the Syrian Civil War. [24] [25] [26]

2020 global ceasefire

The 2020 global ceasefire was a response to a formal appeal by United Nations Secretary-General António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres on March 23 for a global ceasefire as part of the United Nations' response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. On 24 June 2020, 170 UN Member States and Observers signed a non-binding statement in support of the appeal, rising to 172 on 25 June 2020, and on 1 July 2020, the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding a general and immediate global cessation of hostilities for at least 90 days. [27] [28]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Armistice</span> Formal agreement to stop fighting a war

An armistice is a formal agreement of warring parties to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, as it may constitute only a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace. It is derived from the Latin arma, meaning "arms" and -stitium, meaning "a stopping".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Nations Truce Supervision Organization</span> UN peacekeeping mission in the Middle East

The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) is an organization founded on 29 May 1948 for peacekeeping in the Middle East. Established amidst the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, its primary task was initially to provide the military command structure to the peacekeeping forces in the Middle East to enable the peacekeepers to observe and maintain the ceasefire, and in assisting the parties to the Armistice Agreements in the supervision of the application and observance of the terms of those Agreements. The organization's structure and role has evolved over time as a result of the various conflicts in the region and at times UNTSO personnel have been used to rapidly deploy to other areas of the Middle East in support of other United Nations operations. The command structure of the UNTSO was maintained to cover the later peacekeeping organisations of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to which UNTSO continues to provide military observers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Demilitarized zone</span> Area in which agreements between military powers forbid military activities

A demilitarized zone is an area in which treaties or agreements between states, military powers or contending groups forbid military installations, activities, or personnel. A DZ often lies along an established frontier or boundary between two or more military powers or alliances. A DZ may sometimes form a de facto international border, such as the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Other examples of demilitarized zones are a 9-mile wide area between Iraq and Kuwait; Antarctica ; and outer space.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">1949 Armistice Agreements</span> Formal ceasefire which ended the 1948 Arab–Israeli War

The 1949 Armistice Agreements were signed between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. They formally ended the hostilities of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and also demarcated the Green Line, which separated Arab-controlled territory from Israel until the latter's victory in the 1967 Arab–Israeli War.

A hudna is a truce or armistice. It is sometimes translated as "cease-fire". In his medieval dictionary of classical Arabic, the Lisan al-Arab, Ibn Manzur defined it as:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peace treaty</span> Agreement to formally end hostilities between two or more warring parties

A peace treaty is an agreement between two or more hostile parties, usually countries or governments, which formally ends a state of war between the parties. It is different from an armistice, which is an agreement to stop hostilities; a surrender, in which an army agrees to give up arms; or a ceasefire or truce, in which the parties may agree to temporarily or permanently stop fighting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tashkent Declaration</span> Peace agreement ending the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

The Tashkent Declaration was signed between India and Pakistan on 10 January 1966 to resolve the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Peace was achieved on 23 September through interventions by the Soviet Union and the United States, both of which pushed the two warring countries towards a ceasefire in an attempt to avoid any escalation that could draw in other powers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194</span> United Nations resolution adopted in 1948

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 is a resolution adopted near the end of the 1947–1949 Palestine war. The Resolution defines principles for reaching a final settlement and returning Palestine refugees to their homes. Article 11 of the resolution resolves that

refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Simla Agreement</span> 1972 peace treaty between India and Pakistan

The Simla Agreement, also spelled Shimla Agreement, was a peace treaty signed between India and Pakistan on 2 July 1972 in Shimla, the capital city of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It followed the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which began after India intervened in East Pakistan as an ally of Bengali rebels who were fighting against Pakistani state forces in the Bangladesh Liberation War. The Indian intervention proved decisive in the war and led to East Pakistan's breakaway from its union with West Pakistan and the emergence of the independent state of Bangladesh.

The Karachi Agreement of 1949 was signed by the military representatives of India and Pakistan, supervised by the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, establishing a cease-fire line in Kashmir following the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. It established a cease-fire line which has been monitored by United Nations observers from the United Nations since then.

The Green Line, (pre-)1967 border, or 1949 Armistice border is the demarcation line set out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between the armies of Israel and those of its neighbors after the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. It served as the de facto borders of the State of Israel from 1949 until the Six-Day War in 1967, and continues to represent Israel’s internationally recognized borders with the two Palestinian territories: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frozen conflict</span> Armed conflict ending with no peace treaty

In international relations, a frozen conflict is a situation in which active armed conflict has been brought to an end, but no peace treaty or other political framework resolves the conflict to the satisfaction of the combatants. Therefore, legally the conflict can start again at any moment, creating an environment of insecurity and instability.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Nations Security Council Resolution 338</span> 1973 UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Yom Kippur War

The three-line United Nations Security Council Resolution 338, adopted on October 22, 1973, called for a ceasefire in the Yom Kippur War in accordance with a joint proposal by the United States and the Soviet Union. The resolution stipulated a cease fire to take effect within 12 hours of the adoption of the resolution. The "appropriate auspices" was interpreted to mean American or Soviet rather than UN auspices. This third clause helped to establish the framework for the Geneva Conference (1973) held in December 1973.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Nations Military Observer</span>

A United Nations Military Observer (UNMO) is a military official deployed by the United Nations to provide support to a UN mission or peace operation. Described as the "eyes and ears" of the UN Security Council, observers fulfill a variety of roles depending on scope, purpose, and status of the UN mission to which they are attached. A UNMO is generally tasked with monitoring and assessing post-conflict agreements, such as a ceasefire or armistice; the withdrawal of military forces; or the maintenance of a neutral buffer zone. Observers usually undergo special training to ensure neutrality, diplomacy, and deescalation techniques.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">UN mediation of the Kashmir dispute</span> United Nations mediation of the India–Pakistan dispute in Kashmir

The United Nations has played an advisory role in maintaining peace and order in the Kashmir region soon after the independence and partition of British India into the dominions of Pakistan and India in 1947, when a dispute erupted between the two new States on the question of accession over the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir. India took this matter to the UN Security Council, which passed resolution 39 (1948) and established the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) to investigate the issues and mediate between the two new countries. Following the cease-fire of hostilities, it also established the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to monitor the cease-fire line.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 47, adopted on 21 April 1948, concerns the resolution of the Kashmir conflict. After hearing arguments from both India and Pakistan, the Council increased the size of the UN Commission created by the former Resolution 39 to five members, instructed the Commission to go to the subcontinent and help the governments of India and Pakistan restore peace and order to the region and prepare for a plebiscite to decide the fate of Kashmir.

The United Nations Peacekeeping efforts began in 1948. Its first activity was in the Middle East to observe and maintain the ceasefire during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Since then, United Nations peacekeepers have taken part in a total of 72 missions around the globe, 12 of which continue today. The peacekeeping force as a whole received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.

The Mixed Armistice Commissions (MAC) is an organisation for monitoring the ceasefire along the lines set by the General Armistice Agreements. It was composed of United Nations Military Observers and was part of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization peacekeeping force in the Middle East. The MAC comprised on four sections to monitor each of the four truce agreements, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan/Israel MAC, the Israel/Syrian MAC, the Israel/Lebanon MAC and the Egypt/Israel MAC. The various MACs were located on the cease fire lines and, through close liaison with headquarters in Jerusalem, were charged with supervising the truce, investigating border incidents, and taking remedial action to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Nations Security Council Resolution 1860</span> United Nations resolution approved in 2009

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1860, adopted on January 8, 2009, after recalling resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1850 (2008) on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Council called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza War following 13 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yemeni peace process</span> Attempts to resolve the crisis in Yemen

Yemeni peace process refers to the proposals and negotiations to pacify the Yemeni Crisis by arranging a power transfer scheme within the country and later cease-fire attempts within the raging civil war. While initially unsuccessful, the reconciliation efforts resulted with presidential elections, held in Yemen in February 2012. The violence in Yemen, however, continued during the elections and after, culminating in Houthi seizure of power and the ensuing civil war.


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Further reading