20
Oct

Basque Separatists Declare Halt to Violence

Written on October 20, 2011 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Europe, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security

By John F. Burns

Source: www.abc.es

After nearly half a century of violence in its struggle for independence in the traditional Basque homeland in Spain and France, the separatist group ETA declared a unilateral end to its campaign of bombings and shootings on Thursday, saying it wished to seize a “historical opportunity to reach a just and democratic resolution” of the conflict.

The group’s announcement of “the definite cessation of its military activity” came in the form of a written statement and an accompanying video that was made available to The New York Times and the BBC in London under an embargo stipulating that the statement not to be made public until 6 p.m. British time, 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in the United States. ETA’s officials said they planned to release the statement simultaneously to two sympathetic Basque-language newspapers , Garra and Berria, published in San Sebastian, the political center of the main Basque homeland in Spain.

The video showed the statement being read in Spanish by one of a group of masked and hooded men, and intermediaries with access to ETA identified the men as members of the group’s General Command.

The announcement was carefully choreographed to follow an appeal to ETA issued by a group of informal peace negotiators who met in San Sebastian on Monday. Those negotiators, who included Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, and Gerry Adams, the leader of the Irish nationalist group Sinn Fein, said in their statement that “it is time to end, and possible to end, the last armed confrontation in Europe.”

The Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, welcomed the announcement. In a brief televised address, he saluted what he called the end of ETA. “The state of law today triumphs,” Mr. Zapatero said. “Our democracy will be one without terrorism, but not without memory,” he added, recalling the 821 people killed by ETA over more than four decades of struggle. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on October 20, 2011.

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