23 March 2006 Edition
ETA move provides historic opportunity
The announcement of a permanent ceasefire by the Basque guerilla group ETA is an historic opportunity for peace. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero must respond to this positive development by immediately initiating dialogue with the Basque political leadership and releasing all political prisoners.
No doubt there will be considerable opposition to such a process, particularly from the security establishment, but this must be faced down if the opportunity is not to be lost.
Sinn Féin is committed to conflict resolution around the world and will offer any assistance it can. Years of experience, driving a difficult peace process, has put the party in a position to do so. Party President Gerry Adams has been in contact with all the Basque political parties, in particular Batasuna, and has written to Spanish Prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero.
There is a broad consensus in Basque society that dialogue is the only effective way to end the conflict. It would be a tragedy if the Conservative Spanish opposition, The Popular Party, were to oppose any initiative for short term and selfish political ends. We have all witnessed the activities of oppositional elements here in Ireland, both north and south, who have fought the peace process tooth and nail since its inception.
A similar cast of characters can be expected to coalesce in opposition to a Basque peace process. Decades of conflict inevitably produce an element whose interests are threatened by any move towards a resolution.
The permanent nature of the ceasefire along with the wide public consensus for dialogue should help to confound such elements.
An Phoblacht sends fraternal greetings to all our friends in Batasuna and to the Basque people. The initiative by ETA is a brave move that brings the prospects for a resolution of the conflict closer. We share your hopes and optimism for a future based on peace and justice.