Zapatero in crunch talks over Basque future

5th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

5 May 2005, MADRID — Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero held talks with the likely head of Spain's new regional Basque country government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, to discuss the future of the region.

5 May 2005

MADRID — Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero held talks with the likely head of Spain's new regional Basque country government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, to discuss the future of the region.

Ibarretxe said prior to the talks — the second between the pair in recent months — that they were designed to set in train "a peace process and political normalisation" for the wealthy northern region whose autonomy the regional leader seeks to upgrade.

No statements to the media were expected to follow the meeting between the pair at the Moncloa Palace, seat of the Spanish government.

Ibarretxe earlier cryptically defended the 'softly, softly' approach by commenting that "to obtain the best pictures in the world you have to enter a darkroom".

Ibarretxe had Tuesday raised eyebrows within the Spanish political establishment by meeting with leaders of the banned Basque party Batasuna, the political mouthpiece of armed separatist group ETA, blamed for more than 800 deaths in a four-decade independence campaign.

Meeting Batasuna spokesman Arnaldo Otegi he called for "peace and political normalisation" for the region.

With Ibarretxe's plans for a "free association" status from Madrid defeated in 17 April Basque regional election, Zapatero is offering to seek a consensus on reforming the existing statute governing the region's autonomy.

Zapatero believes the time is ripe to pursue that aim following an election which saw Ibarretxe's moderate nationalists win the largest share of the vote but fall short of an absolute majority.

Batasuna, banned two years ago by the Spanish supreme court, called on voters to support a communist party grouping (PCVT-EHAK), which won nine seats.

Batasuna was banned because of links to armed Basque separatist group ETA, and the group features on an EU list of terrorist organisations.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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