ETA political wing allies with non-violent Basque party
Batasuna, the banned politcal wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, signed Sunday a "strategic agreement" with a tiny, legal party to seek an independent Basque state through peaceful means.
The deal between Batasuna and the left-leaning Basque nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna comes ahead of regional elections in the northern region of Spain in 2011 and at a time when ETA is reportedly set to announce a ceasefire.
Under the accord, the two parties "assume a firm and definitive commitment to exclusively use peaceful, democratic and political means" to achieve their goal of independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.
The agreement was signed by representatives of the two parties in Bilbao, the Basque region's financial centre. It was published on the website of the Basque newspaper Gara, which is sympathetic to the separatist cause.
Spain's Supreme Court banned Batasuna in 2003 on grounds that it was part of ETA, which is held responsible for the deaths of 829 people during its on-again, off-again campaign of gun and bomb attacks on mainly Spanish targets.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said he expected "very little" from the agreement signed Sunday between Batasuna and Eusko Alkartasuna.
Batasuna "is not in any condition to convince ETA to lay down its arms and they are almost genetically incapable of distancing itself from the gang," he said during an interview with news radio Cadena Ser.
"Batasuna is illegal because the courts proved that it is the political wing of ETA and if it wants to be legal again it has to stop being its political wing," he added.
ETA is divided between maintaining its campaign of violence and announcing a "tactical ceasefire", daily newspaper El Pais reported Sunday.
An announcement by the group is expected in the coming weeks, it added.
ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 but months later reversed course and in December 2006 set off a bomb at a car park at Madrid's international airport.
After formally calling off peace process in June 2007, the Spanish government stepped up its campaign against ETA with arrests over the past three years of its leaders believed to have severely dented its operations.
© 2010 AFP