Date: Sun, 20 Sep 98 13:24:10 CDT
From: Arm The Spirit <>
Subject: Spain: Update On ETA Ceasefire
Article: 43624
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Updated Report On Truce By ETA

Euskal Herria Journal, 18 September 1998

The Basque resistance organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA, Basque Homeland and Freedom) announced an open-ended ceasefire, the Basque daily Euskadi Informacion reported late Wednesday.

Hooded ETA members were shown on British BBC television reading a communique to announce the truce which is to begin Friday.

ETA set no conditions on the ceasefire and left no doubt that its main goal still is to create an independent Basque state. The organization said it will suspend all armed activities indefinitely from September 18 and concentrate on maintaining its infrastructure.

The ETA communique says it would not give up its arms and retained the right to retaliate against any aggression.

The last truce by ETA in mid-1996 lasted a week without a breakthrough. The Spanish government refused to answer ETA's call for dialogue.

Pressure on the Spanish government for a peace process has been growing recently. Most Basque politicians support negotiations with ETA.

On Saturday, twenty-three political parties, labor unions and grassroots groups called for multilateral talks with ETA without conditions.

After decades of repression and “dirty wars” Spain and France have failed to isolate the Basque opposition.

Last year, the Spanish government jailed the entire leadership of the pro-independence political party Herri Batasuna for distributing a video explaining ETA's peace proposal, the Democratic Alternative. In addition, last June, the government shut down a Basque newspaper and radio station.

The last attempt made by ETA to resolve the confrontation by dialogue happened in 1989 when the former Socialist government held talks with ETA. Talks, boycotted by the Basque Nationalist Party, began in Algiers but ended after just one month when the government broke the preliminary agreement.

In 1995, contacts between ETA and the Socialists were made again through Argentine Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel. Perez Esquivel said the Spanish government had agreed to a first meeting with ETA, and to transfer the Basque political prisoners to jails in the Basque Country—a move that would have been followed by an ETA truce. The Socialists lost the 1996 elections and contacts ended.

ETA's four-page statement announcing the truce followed the Lizarra Declaration issued on Saturday by the participants in the Ireland Forum promoted by Herri Batasuna and boycotted by Spain's ruling Popular Party (PP) and the main opposition party, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE).

The Lizarra Declaration was modelled on Northern Ireland's Stormont Agreement and signed by Basque nationalist parties and Spain's United Left.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar rejected the Lizarra Declaration calling it a “mockery” and part of political maneouvering ahead of regional elections in three of the four Basque provinces in Spain next October.

The Minister of Interior Jaime Mayor Oreja had said on Monday that ETA might declare a truce to draw more votes for Herri Batasuna.

The government of Jose Maria Aznar insists it will not negotiate with ETA or Herri Batasuna until ETA renounces armed struggle.

In contradiction with his hardline stance against ETA, Aznar supports talks between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces guerrilla group. The president of Colombia Andres Pastrana, who took office last month, has agreed to demilitarize part of national territory by early November to set stage for peace talks—with no conditions, including a ceasefire.

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna has been fighting for over 30 years for an independent Basque homeland.

“Until today we have shown the world we are capable of struggling for our own aims. Therefore let us show that from here on we have the right, the will and the ability to organize our nation in the way we choose”, said the ETA communique.

Reactions To Truce By ETA

HB spokesman Joseba Permach: He said the announcement of the truce “it's good news” but warned peace has not yet arrived in Euskal Herria. Permach has maintained that it would not be possible to solve the conflict without the participation of Spain's political parties.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar: “After 30 years of terrorist activity, we cannot give ETA the benefit of the doubt.”

Javier Madrazo, PSOE spokesman for the Basque branch of the communist-led United Left coalition: It is “an important opportunity for peace.”

Jaime Ignacio del Burgo, of the ruling Popular Party branch in Navarre: He accused ETA of trying to blackmail the government into giving in to its sovereignty demands.

PSOE spokesman Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba: He said the party leadership was studying the ETA communique, believing it offered an opportunity but also a “risk”.

Jordi Pujol, leader of the Catalan party CiU: He urged the government not to pass up an opportunity for peace.

Spain's Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja: “Only time will be the judge of the sincerity and authenticity” of the ETA document.

Basque professor and political analyst Ramon Zallo: “This is a change in their policy. They are changing their political tactics and strategy to arrive more gradually at their goal of sovereignty.”

Begoqa Lasagabaster, deputy of the Basque nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna: It is “very positive”.

Leader of the conservative Basque Nationalist Party Xabier Arzalluz: “ETA has taken a very important and not easy step… Now it depends on us, the political and social forces, to take important and positive steps… it's our responsibility to ensure that this initiative ends with a definite solution.”

There was no immediate comment from France's president Jacques Chirac.

Euskal Herria Journal—September 18, 1998

France Continues To Fail To Notice It Is Part Of The Conflict French Government Statement Looks Like Translation

France's Ministry of Interior broke silence Thursday afternoon when it issued a note calling “positive” the truce announced by Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA, Basque Homeland and Freedom) on Wednesday.

The French government statement calls for ETA to back up its truce with actions—Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar greetings to ETA's ceasefire announcement.

A spokeman for the Ministry of Interior made the only official comments since ETA declared an indefinite truce which began on Friday. Interior Minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement fell into a coma September 2 following a heart attack during surgery and remains hospitalized.

President Jacques Chirac has made no comments on the ETA communique which recognizes France and Spain as equal participants in the conflict with Euskal Herria.

The French media treated ETA's announcement as a foreign matter keeping in line with the official policy against Basque speaking (nominally) French citizens—as it was highlighted when a Basque day-nursery was banned in Miarritze in May 1997.

However, a high turnout of the paramilitary gendarmerie, and the presence of a Spanish Civil Guard captain, in the Bastille Day parade in June, showed Chirac's domestic security concerns, including the conflict with Euskal Herria and the government's need to show force. Unless the troops were invited to show up their fancy uniforms, some still in its Napoleonic-era uniforms with gold breast plates and plumed helmets.

Despite France's official recognition of its conflict in Euskal Herria, Basque nationalist parties in the north of Euskal Herria (under French administration) back ETA's announcement and hope that the governments in Madrid and Paris can respond in form.

Abertzaleen Batasuna, a coalition of Basque nationalist parties in Euskal Herria north, signed the Lizarra Declaration issued on Saturday. The document calls for multilateral talks with ETA without conditions.

Analysts said the Lizarra Declaration was modelled on the agreement in Northern Ireland. However, the Stormont Agreement was agreed to by the major political parties. The Lizarra document has included political parties plus labor unions and grassroots groups.

This is the first ceasefire by ETA implemented without an end date—a decision by ETA that puts more pressure on Madrid and Paris to end decades of repression in Euskal Herria. Spain's Minister of Interior Jaime Mayor Oreja said the government has no intention of declaring a truce with the Basque opposition.

Mayor Oreja said in a television interview on Thrusday that “the state can never declare a truce against a terrorist group”. Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar cut short a visit to Peru and flew to Madrid this weekend for urgent consultations with other political parties.

Pressured by ETA's document announcing a unilateral ceasefire, Aznar said the government would be willing to consider “new possibilities” if ETA proved it had truly renounced armed struggle.

More Reactions To The Truce By ETA

Miguel Sanz, president of the regional government of Navarre (one of the three Basque provinces in Spain): “The Navarrese people are the only one who can decide the political future of Navarre.”

Juan Cruz Alli, president of the Navarrese political party CDN: He called ETA's announcement “positive” and backed dialogue and the reform of the Spanish constitution.

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein: He called on the Spanish government to learn the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process and get negotiations under way without delay.

Fidel Castro, president of Cuba: “Good news.” The Cuban president said he wishes the truce could be the beginning of a good solution to the conflict.