Spain dismisses ETA proposal for mediation

20th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spain's government Monday dismissed a call by outlawed Basque separatist group ETA for international mediation to end a decades-old conflict, saying the group's latest statement contains "nothing new".

ETA, blamed for 829 deaths in a flagging campaign of bombings and shootings to secure an independent Basque homeland, made the offer to accept international mediation in a communique published Sunday in two pro-independence dailies.

The group said it was "ready to study jointly the steps that should be taken, including commitments that should be taken by ETA".

But Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Monday the government had "no comment to make about something that has nothing new.

"ETA knows that the only thing that has any value is the definitive and complete end to violence and arms," she said.

In the absence of such a declaration, the government will continue "working to finish off ETA, in the way that it has done until now: with the effectiveness of the" armed forces and judicial system, she told reporters.

Sunday's communique followed a September 5 video declaration in which ETA said it had decided several months ago to halt armed offensive actions.

That was rejected outright by Madrid for failing to promise a permanent end to the violence.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government refuses to negotiate with ETA unless it abandons the armed struggle, recalling that ETA broke a previous promise to end the bloodshed.

ETA addressed its latest communique to international mediators who had called in Brussels in March for the group to declare a "permanent, fully verified ceasefire".

ETA thanked and paid respect to the mediators but did not reply specifically to their demand for a permanent, verifiable ceasefire.

The armed group reportedly named four of the mediators for future talks: South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, its former president FW de Klerk, a former Northern Ireland nationalist leader John Hume and former Irish Republic president Mary Robinson.

De Klerk's spokesman said Monday he would consider mediating in the conflict if formally asked.

There was no immediate reaction from the other three named.

© 2010 AFP

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