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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 9 July, 2020

Adams and Ahern in Spain for talks on Basque separatism

Bertie Ahern and Gerry Adams hope their experience in the North’s peace process can be used for good in the Basque Country.

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

POLITICIANS WHO PLAYED a key role in the Northern Ireland peace process are in Spain today, taking part in a conference aimed at finding a resolution to the conflict between Basque separatists and the Spanish government.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams will take part in a conference organised by Lokarri, an international contact group led by South African lawyer Brian Currin and four other foundations

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is also expected to attend.

The Basque separatist group Eta called a permanent ceasefire in January after more than 40 years of violence in which over 800 people were killed as it fought for a separate Basque state.

But the Spanish government rejected the move saying Eta remained a potential threat and must disband for good. It has previously been critical of ceasefires called by Eta, labelling them “a dead concept”.

As international figures fly into the Basque country for talks, there is an expectation that a statement from ETA is imminent, BBC News reports.

It adds that the conference in San Sebastian is being boycotted by the main Spanish opposition party which is expected to win power in the upcoming general election.

This morning, Gerry Adams told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he hoped the experience of the Northern Ireland peace process could be helpful in persuading all sides to engage in what he called “proper dialogue”.

He said he hoped with “our ability to speak from a position of some experience… we will be able to help to encourage, to assist and to persuade all sides to move on and to move into proper dialogue.”

He added that there was a need to “embrace dialogue as the way forward”, saying:

Why shouldn’t organisations, why shouldn’t representatives talk? Why can’t agendas be shaped up which are inclusive, and without predetermined outcomes?

“Why can’t there be confidence building measures yes from Eta of course but also in relation to prisoners,” he added, referring to the continued imprisonment of Arnaldo Otegi Mondragón, the leader of the Batasuna party, which is outlawed in Spain.

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Hugh O'Connell

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