Zapatero offers olive branch over ETA peace deal

12th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

12 June 2006, MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is to have daily briefings on the ETA peace process with the conservative opposition Popular Party.

12 June 2006

MADRID —  Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is to have daily briefings on the ETA peace process with the conservative opposition Popular Party.

It comes after the two parties were mired in a political row over the course of peace negotiations with the Basque terrorist group.

Earlier, Zapatero had said the government had received no support from the conservative opposition Popular Party over the ETA peace process. only "insults".

In an interview published in the Spanish daily La Vanguardia, the Socialist leader said that over the past three months he had received neither "the support nor the understanding of the PP, only insults" and he defended the need to accept risks to achieve peace.

One cannot be premier without taking risks "if you want to do (things) and change things," said Zapatero, who added that he would open a peace process with ETA before the end of June.

He said the country was "in the best situation ever" to end ETA's 38-year-old terrorist campaign to set up an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southern France.

Zapatero will go to the lower house of Parliament to ask for authorization to open the dialogue with ETA after verifying that the group is complying with its ceasefire.

The Popular Party (PP) accuses the government of giving in to the terrorists' blackmail and being ready to pay an unacceptable political price in exchange for peace.

But Zapatero accused the conservatives of acting "on strident impulses".

The premier's remarks were published one day after tens of thousands of people gathered in Madrid in a march on Saturday, organised by  the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT), to demand that the government not open talks with ETA.

Marchers claimed opening dialogue would betray the memory of 817 people murdered by them since 1968.

Mariano Rajoy, PP leader said he had only "authorized ... (Zapatero) to meet with ETA ... (to determine if the group) really wants to lay down its arms".

Rajoy said that "Zapatero could have spared all his efforts" since ETA "has been sending messages to negotiate for 30 years, but - apparently - some are spurring him on".

The terrorist group must say that "it must cease to exist if it wants Batasuna (its banned political wing to return to politics," Rajoy said.

The PP said last week it was "breaking all relations" with the Zapatero administration because of a meeting scheduled between the Basque-Region Socialists and representatives of Batasuna, the outlawed political arm of ETA.

AVT president Francisco Jose Alcaraz demanded the government "does not give in to terrorist blackmail." He also called on the government "not to sit down to talks with Batasuna" and not to make "concessions to murderers".

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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