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2 December 1999 Edition

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ETA calls off ceasefire

On Saturday 26 November, the Basque pro-independence armed organisation Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) decided to call off its 14-month ceasefire. ETA announced its decision through a statement sent to the Basque news agency APS and published in the Basque newspaper GARA. The media have sought to attribute ETA's decision to the lack of progress in its dealings with the Spanish government. In its three-page statement, however, ETA explained that the main reasons for calling off its cessation were the impasse in the political process and the failure of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) to honour their pledges under the Lizarra-Garazi Agreement. ``The process opened last year was blocked and Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, in this context and in response to its pledge to defend Euskal Herria [Basque Country], has decided to reactivate the armed struggle.''

ETA considers the political process in Euskal Herria is flawed, as little as been achieved since the Lizarra-Garazi Agreement was signed on 12 September 1999. The Agreement's aim was the creation of new Basque national institutions that would represent the will of all those living within the Basque historical territories. Up to now, only the Udalbiltza, an institution that includes elected local representatives from throughout Euskal Herria, has been created, and ETA blames PNV and EA for the snail-like pace of the process, mostly due to those parties' failure to sever links with the Spanish state's political structures.

Along with its statement, ETA released to the media the two proposals previously made by the organisation to the political parties PNV and EA. In August 1998, the political parties agreed to create a national structure for the four Basque provinces under Spanish rule and the two under French control, while ETA committed itself to calling the ceasefire that was announced on 16 September 1998.

In August 1999, ETA decided to put forward a new proposal - ``that all Basque citizens in Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Lapurdi, Nafarroa and Zuberoa can elect free and democratically, as part of the same constituency, a sovereign parliament... In this context ETA's decision would be to give up the armed struggle in defence of Euskal Herria's rights''. This new document was sent to PNV and EA. Neither party replied, and it appears that both have decided to take part in the forthcoming Spanish elections, rejecting ETA's proposals.

The reaction of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) to ETA's announcement was strong. ``This is foul play... ETA should explain the real reasons for calling off the ceasefire, because what they have said is just a pack of lies'', said PNV president Xabier Arzalluz. He added, however, that this new scenario should not affect the Basque Nationalist parties' coalition in Basque autonomous, regional and local institutions. ``We will keep negotiating and talking peace, because were are playing with the welfare of our people,'' he said.

The pro-independence party Herri Batasuna said that it too wanted to keep all their political, social and institutional compromises in place while calling on Basque citizens to participate in a demonstration in Bilbao in support of a democratic political process to solve the conflict.

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