Daily Archives: 17/06/2012

By James Robbins and Stuart Hughes

he Basque separatist paramilitary organisation, ETA, has announced what it calls “a definitive cessation of armed activity.” In a videotaped message passed on by third parties to BBC News, leaders of the outlawed organisation, which has been responsible for the killing of more than 800 people, say “dialogue and agreement must characterise the new age.”

The words “definitive cessation of armed activity” in the ETA statement are seen as crucial. International mediators have urged their inclusion to signal something much more than a ceasefire. ETA has promised and broken ceasefires in the past.

ETA was formed more than fifty years ago, during the dictatorship of General Franco, to demand the establishment of a Basque state separate from the rest of Spain.

A huge bomb in 1973 killed Spain’s Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco in Madrid.

1980 was ETA’s bloodiest year. The group killed nearly 100 people.

Over the last decade ETA has been squeezed by the arrests of many of its leaders and falling support.

Secret mediation has been taking place in recent years to try to replicate some of the successes of the Northern Ireland Peace process. A number of key players involved in that process, including Gerry Adams and Tony Blair, have played a part.

Speaking to BBC News, Tony Blair said “This is obviously a very big moment. This has been the last armed conflict in Europe. It has been going on for half a century and many people have lost their lives. A definitive end to violence is the absolute pre-requisite, it’s what we’ve been urging upon the parties. This is great news if people actually can put this conflict behind them and get on with trying to build a fair and just society in peace and harmony.”

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