Blair to offer Zapatero support' over ETA talks
3 October 2006, MADRID — José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and British prime minister Tony Blair are to discuss the ETA peace process during talks on Tuesday.
3 October 2006
MADRID — José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and British prime minister Tony Blair are to discuss the ETA peace process during talks on Tuesday.
Blair is in Madrid for a two-day summit with Zapatero, to discuss a range of issues.
But Spanish media have speculated Blair will offer his moral support at a time when negotiations with ETA are at a low point.
After nearly 40 years of terrorist attacks in which 817 people have been killed, ETA declared its first 'permanent ceasefire' in March, heralding hopes this could finally see the end of one of Europe's oldest nationalist terror groups.
In recent weeks, hopes of ending ETA's terrorist campaign have appeared near to collapse.
Last week, three masked ETA men, brandishing pistols staged a show of force, stating: "The struggle is not in the past; it is in the present and the future."
Street violence by ETA supporters in the Basque Country has also been on the rise in recent weeks.
And despite police operations against ETA's extortion networks, the Basque business community claim they are still subject to threats.
After the ETA's announcement of a ceasefire, the British premier sent Zapatero a report offering his advice on some lessons learned from peace process with the IRA.
Blair told Zapatero to "keep a reserve channel" open to talk to ETA, reported the Spanish daily El Pais.
During five years of talks, Blair said he always kept lines of communication open with the IRA and political arm, Sinn Fein, even when the peace process was at its lowest ebb.
He also said it was important to keep the support of all political parties.
The Government always enjoyed the support of the Conservatives and other parties.
But in Spain, the main conservative opposition Popular Party has withdrawn its support and is against dialogue with ETA until it gives up its arms.
The Association for the Victims of Terrorism, the biggest group of ETA victims and relatives, also opposes the Government stance on opening talks with ETA.
The two leaders are also to discuss climate change, the situation in Darfur, and business ties between the two countries.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news