Stakes and Symbolism of the "Round Table" in the Settlement of International Conflicts: The Cases of Vietnam and the Sahara

The initiation and conduct of any negotiation are not solely dependent on the positions of parties, their willingness to make concessions and, possibly, the mediator's talent. Similarly, they do not merely hinge on the settlement of procedural issues and the adoption of technical arrangements designed to circumvent the parties' prior objections, to accommodate their sensitivities and to secure their acceptance of a code of conduct suited to each phase of the negotiations. Such technical arrangements include the setting of an agenda, the choice of the level and style of negotiators, the timing of the launch of negotiations, communication arrangements, the language of the negotiation, the order of speaking, the location of delegations, the use of flags, the height of seats, the venue of meetings and the shape of the negotiating table. These last two technical aspects are of particular symbolic importance.