MADRID (Reuters) - Basque separatists ETA laid out conditions on Sunday for an end to its violent campaign for independence from Spain, warning that it reserves the right to defend itself during a so-called “ceasefire.”
ETA’s announcement of a truce this month was met with skepticism from the government and other political forces because it gave no further substantiation and has broken such ceasefires without warning in the past.
“ETA is willing to make the ceasefire permanent and verifiable, and to go further, if there are conditions to do so,” two of the guerrilla group’s members said in an interview with Basque daily Gara (www.gara.net).
The ETA members said negotiators from all the relevant political and social representatives should lay out a roadmap to work toward the recognition of a Basque state.
There was no immediate reaction from the government, but it has said repeatedly that the only ETA announcement of interest would be one announcing the group’s dissolution.
ETA has waged a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings claiming more than 850 lives, and last week called for international mediation for a peaceful solution.
While the interviewees gave few clear answers, they did specify that ETA reserves the right to defend itself if confronted, as well as to maintain supplies of arms.
Other conditions were “indispensible” in a first stage of negotiation.
“Amongst those ... are the freeing of prisoners who are sick, and of prisoners who have served three-quarters of their sentence,” the interview said.
“Measures should be taken so that all of those involved can take part as equals, so that civil and political rights can be established, so that additional punishment imposed on Basque political prisoners can be stopped and, in general, so that all pressure and violence ends,” the interview said, a brief summary of which was published on Saturday.
International mediators helped end another protracted European guerrilla campaign — by the Provisional IRA group in Northern Ireland. A 1998 agreement provided for disarming by guerrillas and power sharing between rival republican and pro-British forces after 30 years of bloodshed.
ETA, whose acronym stands for “Basque Homeland and Freedom” in the Basque language, has been severely debilitated by the arrests of senior members and by the concerted action of Spanish, French and Portuguese police to find arms caches.
The most recent ceasefire that ETA separatists broke was in 2006, with a deadly bomb attack at Madrid’s Barajas airport. Their last killing was that of a French policeman, who was trying to arrest ETA members as they tried to steal a car on the outskirts of Paris in March.
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Alison Williams