Zapatero says sorry to heal row over Batasuna talks

7th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

7 June 2006, MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero moved to heal a rift with the opposition conservative Popular Party over planned talks with ETA's political wing.

7 June 2006

MADRID — Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero moved to heal a rift with the opposition conservative Popular Party over planned talks with ETA's political wing.

Zapatero said his government was sorry for not informing the Popular Party (PP) of the talks with Batasuna, before they were announced.

The move came after the PP leader Mariano Rajoy announced his party would "break all relations" with the government over the planned meeting between the Basque Socialists and Batasuna.

Mariano Rajoy said in parliament that the rupture of ties would be maintained "as long as this ignominy (the meeting) is not rectified".

He attacked the meeting, claiming it meant the "de facto legalization" of Batasuna, ETA's banned political arm.

Batasuna has been banned since March 2003, when the supreme court ruled it was closely tied to ETA, a terrorist organization seeking an independent Basque nation comprising parts of northern Spain and southern France.

Since then, Batasuna has pursued a semi-clandestine existence and has not competed in any elections.

But it played a key role in the process leading to ETA's declaration of a permanent cease-fire in March.

The Basque Region Socialist Party announced its intention to meet with leaders of the illegal coalition last week.

A "return" to legality by Batasuna would allow it to participate in a possible discussion among parties about the political future of the Basque Country, a process to run parallel with the dialogue which Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has scheduled with ETA to negotiate the disbanding of the terrorist group.

Zapatero said he regretted the fact that the PP was using the legislature to announce a breaking of ties at a crucial moment in the peace process.

He accused the conservatives of making "hypocritical use" of the government's anti-terrorist policy.

The premier appealed for "democratic dialogue" and asked the PP to step back from its decision to break relations with the government.

He reminded the PP that when ETA declared a truce in 1998, the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar engaged in dialogue with the leading imprisoned members of Batasuna and relocated 143 ETA prisoners to the Basque Country.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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