Reuters.com – Basque separatists ETA declare ceasefire

Finally peace in Basque, read below for the news…The Basque countryside is beautiful and should be experienced by everyone, and know everyone can safely.

Reuters News Article UPDATE 5-Basque separatists ETA
declare ceasefire

By Jane Barrett

MADRID, March 22 (Reuters) – Basque separatist group ETA on Wednesday declared a permanent ceasefire after almost four decades of bombings and shootings in Spain during its campaign for independence.

ETA said the truce would start on Friday and Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero cautiously welcomed the move, emphasising that a long-awaited peace process would be lengthy and difficult.

ETA, Western Europe’s most active separatist group seeking independence on territory in both northern Spain and southwest France, broke two ceasefires in the 1990s.

Three ETA members appeared on state television to announce the new truce, dressed in black berets and white hoods covering their faces. They sat at a table in front of ETA’s flag showing a snake twisted around an axe.

“ETA has decided to declare a permanent ceasefire from March 24, 2006,” said a woman seated in the middle, reading from a statement.

“The object of this decision is to drive the democratic process in the Basque country in order to construct a new framework in which our rights as a people will be recognised and
to ensure the future development of all political options.”

ETA has been weakened in recent years by a police crackdown with hundreds of arrests in France and Spain. It also lost support after the 2004 Madrid train bombings, when Spaniards recoiled in horror at the killing of 191 people by suspected Islamist fundamentalists.

ETA has killed 850 people and blackmailed thousands of Basque businesses in its fight for independence. Its last fatal attack was in 2003.

A ceasefire could open the way to talks with Spain’s Socialist government, which is far more inclined to cede more power to Spain’s regions than the previous conservative one.

“The position of the government is one of caution and prudence. After so many years of horror and terror, it will be a long and difficult process,” Zapatero told parliament.

Previously united by horror of violence, Spain would now be united by hope, he said.

LONG CAMPAIGN

Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said: “It is a very good piece of news for all Spaniards.”

“The government has the duty to be extremely prudent, you can’t be cautious enough … It is our desire and our wish that this will be the beginning of the end,” she added.

Zapatero had raised hopes of an ETA truce earlier this year, only for the group — classed as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union — to start bombing again.

“We can take this truce very seriously,” said Ignacio Sanchez, the author of studies on ETA.

“They have been weakened more than ever, both by the judiciary and the police. They are the last active terrorist group in Western Europe and everything points to this being a
permanent truce,” he told Reuters.

ETA’s statement made two mentions of France being involved in the future of the Basque Country, although Paris has always refused to get involved in any talks with ETA.

“There is no question of France intervening in a problem which falls under Spanish sovereignty,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei reiterated. He did not comment on the new communique.

It is unclear quite how many Basques truly want their own state, having voted in a regional government run by the moderate Nationalist Basque Party, which sits in Madrid’s parliament.

Since 2003 ETA has set off only small bombs, which have caused damage to buildings but no deaths.

(Additional reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary, Manuel Maria Ruiz, Ben Harding, Joe Ortiz, Emma Pinedo, Blanca Rodriguez)
I think that the Basque have made the right choice, swallowing their pride and realizing that the only way they can achieve peace and accomplish their goals for independence is with peace and dialogue.