In the beautiful Swiss village of Montezilon on the border with France, 20 Nepali participants took part in an important seminar. Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) had brought together a group of Nepali political and human rights activists, intellectuals, businessmen, professionals as well as two leaders of the CPN (Maoist) who did not want to be identified. Spokesman of the Nepali Congress Arjun Narsingh KC, UML leader JN Khanal, Prem Suwal of NWPP, Sarita Giri of NSP, Bimalendra Nidhi of NC (Democratic), Krishna Khanal, Devendra Raj Pandey, Prakash Sharan Mahat, Sindhu Nath Pyakurel, Padma Jyoti, Shanta Thapaliya and myself were present. The main presentations were on lessons that could be learned from conflict resolution in South Africa and Switzerland's multiethnic, multicultural society. Some of the lessons from South Africa:
. If the main parties in the conflict don't have the "irresistible urge" to sit for negotiations honestly, wait. Don't begin talks in a hurry.
. It is a matter of urgency to develop mutual trust between the negotiators to resolve the conflict. Honouring commitments made during negotiations are important, and even minor violations can result in a breach of trust.
. A series of informal talks will have to take place in which both sides learn of the real intentions, fears and minimum point of flexibility of the other side. Long-term resolution is possible after the real intentions and misgivings of either side are identified and addressed.
. The chances for results that are productive and acceptable to all sides is higher if conflicting parties whose interests are at risk are incorporated in the process of negotiations. The ownership of all the sides in the negotiation process is indispensable.
. Talks can succeed only when the concerned parties stand to benefit.
. Always hold negotiations with authorised personnel, not with the messenger.
At the special request by the Nepali delegates, the organisers agreed to hold a special session on Nepal in which the Maoist representatives replied to the queries of participants attending the seminar. They made three important statements:
. If the parliamentary parties agree to step up to the Maoist demand for holding elections for a constituent assembly, the rebels will participate in the parliamentary process.
. The Maoists are ready to accept the results of a constituent assembly.
. If the king agrees to keep the army under parliament and fulfil his role as a constitutional king, the Maoists won't have any reservations in providing an honourable place for the monarchy.