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ETA signals enthusiasm for dialogue with Madrid

17 January 2005

SAN SEBASTIAN – The armed Basque separatist group ETA has thrown its weight behind an initiative by its political wing to open dialogue with the Spanish government on solving the Basque problem.

In a statement published in the Basque newspaper Gara, ETA declared itself
“wholly determined” to be involved in the process outlined by Batasuna
spokesman Analdo Otegi calling for “political dialogue” and “an
end to weapons in Basque politics.”
ETA, which toned down its three-decade armed campaign for a Basque homeland
last year, made no explicit reference to a ceasefire but suggested the time
had come to talk.

Minister of Public Administration Jordi Sevilla said the government was
“waiting for the letter” by which ETA “will say when and where it will give up
its arms and abandon terrorism.”

ETA hailed Batasuna’s proposals, which the government has also agreed to
consider, as “the most effective political contribution presented so far to
try to settle the conflict between the Basque country and the state”.

“The only way to resolve the conflict is to organize an open and concrete
dialogue aimed at reaching a comprehensive agreement,” the statement said.

“It is time to enter into dialogue, decide that the future belongs to all
citizens, without any kind of pressure or limits,” it added.

ETA affirmed in particular that any solution must involve “the recognition
of the right to self-determination. The solution will be found if all (Basque)
citizens are consulted on their future.”

The Izquierda Unida (United Left) party said the ETA statement was an
indication the underground army wanted to hand over responsibility for
resolving the conflict to Batasuna.

“We are at the beginning of a new political situation,” it said.  

While there was no immediate explanation for its new willingness to
negotiate, ETA has been greatly weakened by a string of arrests last year,
including that of political leader Mikel “Antza” Albizu Iriarte.

The ETA has been blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people in its more
than three-decade campaign for an independent Basque homeland straddling the
Pyrenees between France and Spain.

In the same vein, Batasuna spokesman Otegi issued an open letter to Prime
Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero on Friday urging him to “pass into
posterity as a Spanish Tony Blair” in reference to the British prime
minister’s involvement in dialogue with extremists in Northern Ireland which
resulted in the 1998 peace accord for the British province.
Zapatero said on Saturday said he was ready to listen to Batasuna’s proposals if
ETA eschewed violence.

“I would be the first to listen to you, just as would all citizens, but you
must first definitively end the sound of bombs and guns, and have the courage
to condemn and reject violence,” Zapatero said during an address to socialist
mayors in San Sebastian.

When Batsuna issued its call last November for a “political dialogue”
involving all the parties to the conflict “in a peaceful and democratic
context,” it had been careful not to issue a formal appeal to ETA to end the

Such an appeal is the condition demanded by Spain’s main national parties
for Batasuna to be allowed back into the democratic fold.

In its statement Sunday ETA made no mention of abandoning its armed
campaign whether temporarily or definitively.

Quite the reverse, it claimed responsibility for 23 low-level attacks in
Spain between 15 September and 22 December last year.

However it denied any involvement in the bomb hoax on December 12 which had resulted in the evacuation of 70,000 spectators in Madrid’s Santiago-Bernabeu stadium in Madrid.

In an early reaction to ETA’s statement Defence Minister Jose Bono called for “extreme caution”  and warned people “not to let themselves be dazzled by
the words of terrorists.”

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news