An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace. It is derived from the Latin arma, meaning weapons and statium, meaning a stopping.
A truce or ceasefire usually refers to a temporary cessation of hostilities for an agreed limited time or within a limited area. A truce may be needed in order to negotiate an armistice. An armistice is a modus vivendi and is not the same as a peace treaty, which may take months or even years to agree on. The 1953 Korean War Armistice is a major example of an armistice which has not been followed by a peace treaty.
The United Nations Security Council often imposes or tries to impose cease-fire resolutions on parties in modern conflicts. Armistices are always negotiated between the parties themselves and are thus generally seen as more binding than non-mandatory UN cease-fire resolutions in modern international law.
The key aspect in an armistice is the fact that "all fighting ends with no one surrendering". This is in contrast to an unconditional surrender, which is a surrender without conditions, except for those provided by international law.
International Law regarding armistices
Under International Law an armistice is a legal agreement (often in a document) which ends fighting between the "belligerent parties" of a war or conflict. The Hague II (1899) Treaty, says "If its [e.g., the armistice's] duration is not fixed," the parties can resume fighting (Article 36) as they chose, but with proper notifications. This is in comparison to a "fixed duration" armistice, where the parties can renew fighting only at the end of the particular fixed duration. When the belligerent parties say (in effect), "this armistice completely ends the fighting" without any end date for the armistice, then duration of the armistice is fixed in the sense that no resumption of the fighting is allowed at any time.
Important armistices in history
The most notable armistice was on November 11, 1918, and the one meant when people in Europe say simply "The Armistice", is the armistice at the end of World War I, on 11 November 1918, signed near Compiègne, France, and effective at the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month."
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