ETA in 'secret talks' with Madrid

21st January 2005, Comments 0 comments

21 January 2005, MADRID-The Spanish government has had contacts with ETA to sound out the commitment of the banned armed Basque separatist group to a ceasefire.

21 January 2005

MADRID-The Spanish government has had contacts with ETA to sound out the commitment of the banned armed Basque separatist group to a ceasefire.

The Spanish daily La Razon, citing government sources, reported the high-level links to the terrorist group.

A government spokesman declined to comment on the story, but noted recent statements by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero  that an end to violence was necessary before any talks could begin.

On Sunday, ETA backed an initiative by its political wing to open dialogue with the Spanish government on solving the Basque problem.

In a statement published in the Basque newspaper Gara, ETA declared itself "wholly determined" to be involved in the process outlined by Batasuna spokesman Analdo Otegi on November 14 calling for "political dialogue" and "an end to weapons in Basque politics."

The conservative La Razon daily said Zapatero had entrusted one of his confidants with getting in touch with ETA, and only several top members of his Socialist party knew of the discussions.

The newspaper said preliminary contacts began in May 2004, two months after Zapatero's government was elected to office, and that the group waging a violent campaign for an independent Basque homeland had handed the prime minister two letters indicating their commitment to negotiations.

ETA wants talks on recognizing Batasuna as a legitimate political party and the release from prison of its members who have served most of their terms.

The legalisation of Batasuna would allow the party to compete in regional elections in the Basque region in May.

Last week Zapatero said he was ready to listen to Batasuna's proposals -but only if ETA eschewed violence.

"I would be the first to listen to you, just as would all citizens, but you must first definitively end the sound of bombs and guns, and have the courage to condemn and reject violence," Zapatero said during an address to socialist mayors in the northern city of San Sebastian.

On Wednesday he again reiterated that the government would seize "the slightest opportunity to ensure the fruition" of any concrete initiative by ETA to consign its armed campaign to the past, but the group has to date failed to renounce violence.

ETA has been blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people in its more than three decade battle for a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southern France.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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