Peace negotiators urge ETA to end violence for good

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A group of international mediators including Archbishop Desmond Tutu has issued a new call for outlawed Basque secessionists ETA to declare a permanent end to violence.

ETA, blamed for 829 killings in more than four decades of bombing and shootings for a homeland independent of Spain, issued a series of statements in September saying it was ready to disarm in the right conditions.

The Spanish government has refused to negotiate until the band unilaterally and definitively gives up the armed struggle.

In a statement September 20, ETA also sought the involvement in peace talks of mediators who had signed a March 2010 declaration in Brussels urging the band to declare a "permanent, fully verified ceasefire".

The mediators replied in a statement issued Thursday that their demand to ETA remained unchanged.

"Each one of the endorsers of the Brussels Declaration has been consulted on ETA's recent statements and direct response to the Brussels Declaration," said the group's spokesman, South African lawyer Brian Currin.

"Their plea to ETA remains the same as it was when the Brussels Declaration was issued in March this year, namely that they declare a unilateral, verifiable and permanent ceasefire," he said.

Signatories to the Brussels declaration included South Africa's Tutu, its former president FW de Klerk, a former Northern Ireland nationalist leader John Hume and former Irish Republic president Mary Robinson.

Currin said the endorsers of the Brussels declaration had decided to set up an international contact group of five people to respond more quickly to efforts to resolve the conflict.

Further details of the contact group would be announced this month, he said.

The Spanish government believes its campaign against ETA, with dozens of arrests made in cooperation with forces in other countries, particularly France, has seriously weakened ETA's operational capacity.

ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 and started tentative peace talks with Madrid.

But in December 2006 it set off a bomb in a car park at Madrid's airport, killing two men, and in June 2007 it formally called off that ceasefire, citing a lack of concessions by the government in peace talks.

© 2010 AFP

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