23 March 2006 Edition
Basque ceasefire: Welcome in Ireland for ETA move
Adams welcomes historic ETA ceasefire
BY EOIN Ó BROIN
Following months of behind the scenes contacts between the Spanish government and Basque nationalists, ETA this week called a permanent ceasefire. The statement, delivered to Basque media outlets on Wednesday, 22 March, outlined the armed group's intention to call a ceasefire, taking effect from Friday of this week.
In January of this year both Batasuna spokesperson Arnaldo Otegi and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero were making positive sounds regarding the emergence of a fully fledged conflict resolution process in the Basque Country.
However, in recent months the death of two ETA political prisoners, and the subsequent legal case against Ogeti and other Basque political leaders has left many observers concerned that the Spanish government was not unequivocally committed to the emerging peace process.
Today's announcement, in the words of ETA, aims to give impetus to that process in the hope that Zapatero, and all other basque and Spanish politicians will grasp the opportunity and work to secure a lasting resolution to the conflict.
The ceasefire announcement has been broadly welcomed in the Basque Country, Ireland and across Europe.
Speaking on Wednesday during a press conference in Belfast, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said that, "Sinn Féin has been in dialogue with all of the Basque political parties and in particular Batasuna. I have also written to the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero. Our objective has been to promote conflict resolution and to assist in whatever way we can the development of a peace process. I welcome today's news from the Basque Country.
"ETA's announcement provides all sides to the conflict with an opportunity of historic proportions. Today's announcement gives a considerable boost to the development of a conflict resolution process."
Adams also called on all involved to "grasp this opportunity, and to do everything in their power to make political progress a reality".'
"There is a particular onus and responsibility on the Spanish government to respond positively and creatively. The Spanish government should immediately intervene to stop the political trials against Batasuna leaders, including Arnaldo Otegi", Adams said.
In the European Union Parliament MEPs from across the 25 member states welcomed the announcement. The President of the Parliament Josep Borell formally welcomed the anouncement during a mini-session of the parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
The statement was also wlecomed by the Irish Minister for Foreign Afairs Dermot Ahern.
As An Phoblacht goes to print the Spanish government has cautiously welcomed the announcement.
Speaking to An Phoblacht from the Basque Country on Wednesday evening leading Irish republican, Seanna Walsh who read the statement announcing the end of the IRA's campaign on 28 July last year, said that recently Basque people had mobilised support beyond their usual base. Recent deaths in custody of Basque activists Igor Angulo and Roberto Sainz, who both died under suspicious circumstances while in prison, had played a role in this. There was, he said, a broad consensus that the Government should respond positively to the ETA announcement. There was now a "new atmosphere of optimism in the area and the Basque leadership are determined to maintain pressure on the Spanish Government to engage in dialogue".
Seanna Wlash said that there was an air of celebration which reminded him of the IRA's own cessation, but the finality of the Basque announcement had more parallels with last years 28 July statement by the IRA. There would now be huge pressure on the Spanish Government to democratise the area he said.
ETA statement in full
Message from Euskadi Ta Askatasuna to the Basque People.
Euskadi Ta Askatasuna has decided to declare a permanent ceasefire from March 24th 2006.
The objective of this decision is to encourage a democratic process in Euskal Herria in order to build a new framework in which the rights as a people which correspond to us can be recognised and looking to the future assuring us the possibility of the development of all political options.
At the end of this process the Basque citizens must have the word and decision on their future.
The Spanish and French states must recognise the results of such a democratic process, without any type of limitations. The decisions which the Basque citizens take on our future must be respected.
We make a call to all the agents to act with responsibility, and be conscious of the step taken by ETA.
ETA makes a call to the Spanish and French authorities to respond to this new situation in a positive manner, leaving repression to one side.
Finally, we make a call to all the men and women of the Basque country to get involved in this process, and to fight for the rights which as a patria correspond to us.
ETA expresses its wish and will that the process now started reaches its end, and that a real democratic situation is achieved for Euskal Herria, overcoming the conflict of many long years and constructing a peace based on justice.
We reaffirm our intention to carry on taking steps in the future in line with this wish.
The end of conflict, here and now is possible. This is the wish and the will of ETA.
Euskal Herrian, 2006 ko martxoan
Euskadi Ta Askatsasuna
Basque activist facing jail
• Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi shakes hands with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún has voiced her concern at the 24 March hearing in the Spanish National Court which may result in the jailing of Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi. The continuation of the ban on the Basque political party Batasuna and the jailing of its leadership will only serve to undermine efforts to establish a peace process said de Brún.
Basque protest in Dublin
A strange sight was to be seen on Wednesday evening, 15 March in the grounds of Dublin's Spanish embassy- the Basque flag flying from the embassy's flagpole.
Some 30 people turned out for an Ógra Shinn Féin organised protest in support of the Basque prisoners suffering under the hands of the Spanish and French states.
A letter addressed to the Spanish ambassador was not accepted at the embassy. In response, two activists climbed the wall and hoisted the Basque flag on the flagpole.