Spain's party leaders promise consensus on ETA ceasefire

27th March 2006, Comments 0 comments

27 March 2006, MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the head of the conservative opposition, Mariano Rajoy, are ready to work together to ensure an end to ETA's terrorist violence.

27 March 2006

MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and the head of the conservative opposition, Mariano Rajoy, are ready to work together to ensure an end to ETA's terrorist violence.

In separate interviews published on Sunday in the Spanish press, the two men agreed on the importance of joining political forces to take advantage of the current peace opportunity, which comes after four decades of ETA terrorism.

The statements supporting consensus mark a reversal from the confrontational stance both the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) have taken on anti-terrorism matters since the start Zapatero came to power in April 2004.

In remarks to the daily El Pais, Zapatero emphasised that cooperation with the PP - the country's main opposition party - is "key for the end of (ETA) violence" and he once again called on the PP to take advantage of an "historic" opportunity.

In his first interview since ETA announced a permanent cease-fire last week, Zapatero noted three specific premises for success in the anticipated peace talks with the Basque separatist group: "working with discretion, creating confidence-building links and not trying to resolve everything at once".

Zapatero will meet Rajoy on Tuesday at the Moncloa Palace, the prime minister's official residence, to open a round of discussions with political leaders to analyze the situation and determine the next steps to take.

Zapatero said that he would tell Rajoy that "we'll all have to have forward-looking vision, generosity and wisdom and to work not thinking about the next elections, but about the future of this country and especially the Basque Country".

The prime minister added that he had an idea for a so-called roadmap for the peace process consisting of "three or four basic ideas and an approach ... (based on) the unity of democrats".

He also said that the basic element of the plan was confirming that "we are at the end of the violence".

Zapatero said that the government had to verify that the terrorist violence and blackmail were over and he repeated that he would enunciate a message of "memory, understanding and support" for the more than 800 people killed by ETA since 1968, when the group started its violent campaign to carve out an independent Basque homeland from portions of northern Spain and southwestern France.

ETA victims have said they were hopeful about the success of the ceasefire, but they called on the Spanish government to exert "firmness to avoid impunity".

The main victims' association said ETA's ceasefire "can be the starting point of a process leading to the end of terrorism".

Rajoy said the PP would be "constructive in helping the government achieve the end of ETA," but not in exchange for a "political price", in an interview with the Spanish daily La Vanguardia.

The PP leader said people should "be prudent" in the face of the ceasefire, adding that he would discuss his definitive position on the matter after he had spoken with Zapatero on Tuesday.

"I hope that on Tuesday the prime minister will tell me what his plans are and, since it's the government's responsibility to decide upon anti-terrorism policy, once I know his plans, I'll give my position" on the matter, he said.

Rajoy emphasized that "if ETA lays down its arms, the problem will be definitively resolved ... Society doesn't owe ETA anything. The one who owes a debt to Spanish society is ETA".

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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