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Gabrielle Rifkind  directs of the Middle East  programme at Oxford Research Group. She is a group analyst , psychotherapist  and  a specialist in conflict resolution   Gabrielle is a political entrepreneur who has  a deep interest in understanding the links between human behaviour and realpolitik and she has worked to create safe environments for parties in conflict to sit together. She has spent time talking to both groups that sit outside formal political systems and the leadership in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel. There are not many in this profession that you would meet in Tehran or Damascus.


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Giandomenico (Gianni) Picco was a"legendary" negotiator and  led the task force which secured the end of the war   between Iran and Iraq in  August 1988. From 1988 to 1992, he conducted the operation which led to: the release of 11 western hostages from  Lebanon .  He was also a member of the negotiating team on the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan over an 8 year period. He was also directly involved in the efforts which  led to the release of 11 Iranians of the Jewish faith from Shiraz  in 2001. He searched  for the  narratives in people , both  individual and national ones, by walking the streets of Kabul, Baghdad, Tehran and Beirut at war.A son of the Cold War era, his childhood was impacted  by the geographical proximity of the Iron Curtain  and the family history of two World Wars.