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No talks with ETA following ceasefire, says Spain

The Basque separatist group ETA announced that it would lay down its arms yesterday – but the Spanish government has ruled out talks.

A couple drink whilst they look at Spanish TV at a bar in Pamplona northern Spain, showing members of the Basque separatist group ETA.
A couple drink whilst they look at Spanish TV at a bar in Pamplona northern Spain, showing members of the Basque separatist group ETA.
Image: AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos

SPAIN HAS SAID there will be no talks with the Basque separatist group ETA – even as it welcomed an end to four decades of bombings and shootings following the group’s announcement it was laying down arms.

ETA announced yesterday in a historic statement that it was ceasing its 43-year-long campaign for an independent Basque state in territory straddling northern Spain and southwest France.

However, the group stopped short of declaring defeat and called on Spain and France to open talks on the conflict.

Spanish Defence Minister Carme Chacon told Spanish National Television there is nothing to negotiate with ETA.

He added that ETA had not achieved any of its aims and that the decades “of pain and crime have not served them (ETA) at all.”

Chacon said this was the “beginning of an end that has to be managed intelligently”.

ETA’s decision was welcomed by Spanish politicians across the board, with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero saying it was a victory for democracy.

ETA, which killed more 800 people in its violent campaign, made the announcement in a video of three its members wearing trademark Basque berets and white cloth masks with slits for their eyes.

At the end of the clip, they defiantly raised their fists in the air demanding a separate Basque nation.

Spain’s Interior Minister Antonio Camacho paid homage to the security forces who helped bring about ETA’s change of heart and said:

We have ended a part of our task. The most complicated part remains: guaranteeing, by means of strict adherence to our laws, that never again should a generation of Spaniards have to bear the burden of a barbarity that has dragged on our progress and compromised our future.

Spain in recent years has repeatedly refused any negotiations with ETA — talks in 2006 went nowhere.

Relatives of victims killed by ETA also insisted that group disband and tell authorities where its guns and bomb-making material are hidden.

“It is the hoped-for end, but not the desired one,” said Angeles Pedraza, president of the Association of Victims of Terrorism. “The victims want the attacks to stop, but we want them to pay for what they have done. We want the total defeat of ETA.”

ETA’s statement made no apology for having killed hundreds of people.

ETA emerged during the dictatorship of Gen Francisco Franco, who suppressed Basque culture.

Many Basques argue they are culturally distinct from Spain and deserve statehood.

But the wealthy and verdant region also has many inhabitants who consider themselves Spanish, or both Basque and Spanish, and have long been opposed to the militants.

In 1973, ETA planted a bomb on a Madrid street after weeks of tunneling and blew up a car, killing Franco’s Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco.

But even as Spain returned to democracy in 1978 and the Basque territory and other Spanish regions were granted sweeping autonomy over the following years, ETA became even more violent, killing hundreds of people.

Classified as a terrorist group by Spain, the European Union and the United States, the group’s power and ability to stage attacks waned over the last decade, especially after the September 11 attacks and the 2004 Madrid train bombings by radical Islamists.

ETA preceded Thursday’s announcement with a cease-fire in September 2010 which it then declared permanent in January.

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Associated Press

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