Sinn Fein leader urges Spain, France to accept ETA move

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Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams urged Spain and France to accept Thursday's announcement of a definitive end to armed activity by armed Basque separatists ETA, and agree to talks.

Adams said the parties involved had to focus on reconciliation, victims and healing personal and social wounds caused by the violence, while Madrid needed to take confidence-building steps.

"I would urge the governments of Spain and France to welcome it and agree to talks exclusively to deal with the consequences of the conflict," he said in a statement.

Adams took part in an international "peace conference" on Monday in San Sebastian, the capital of the Basque Country autonomous community in northern Spain.

Sinn Fein is the political wing of the now-defunct Irish Republican Army (IRA) paramilitary group.

The IRA formally declared an end to its armed campaign in 2005, vowing to pursue its goal of removing Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and bringing about a united Ireland by purely peaceful and democratic means.

"I welcome the decisive and positive terms of ETA's response to Monday's 'Declaration' in San Sebastian by the International Conference group," Adams said Thursday.

"Following our deliberations the International Group expressed the opinion that 'it is possible to end the last armed confrontation in Europe'.

"We called upon ETA to make a public declaration of the definitive cessation of all armed action and to request talks with the governments of Spain and France to address exclusively the consequences of the conflict."

He went on: "I believe that their statement today meets that requirement and I would urge the governments of Spain and France to welcome it and agree to talks exclusively to deal with the consequences of the conflict."

Adams said the next steps should be about "promoting reconciliation, addressing the issue of victims and recognising that a serious effort has to be made to heal personal and social wounds".

Among other confidence-building issues were those of prisoners and of "demilitarising the environment and of respecting and acknowledging the democratic rights of all political parties and treating them as equals."

Adams also said that Arnaldo Otegi, who was sentenced in September to 10 years in prison for trying to rebuild ETA's banned political wing Batasuna, was "totally committed" to peace.

"At a time when Batasuna is banned and leaders like Arnaldo Otegi, who is totally committed in my view to peace, are imprisoned, the use of confidence-building measures by the Spanish state is very important."

© 2011 AFP

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