MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Tuesday ETA had to lay down its arms forever, after the Basque separatist group declared a ceasefire.
ETA’s announcement on Sunday of another truce, without announcing its permanent disarmament, has disappointed all Spain’s democratic political parties, he said at a news conference.
“(ETA’s) announcements are worth nothing, only their decisions — and only one decision ... to lay down their arms forever,” Zapatero said.
ETA, which has killed more than 850 people in its struggle to carve out an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwest France, announced a ceasefire on Sunday, but gave no details of its duration or plans to disarm.
The armed group’s political wing Batasuna will not be legalized and allowed to participate in elections in Spain unless they completely abandon their support for violence, Zapatero said.
“Those who are outside the law because they do not flatly condemn violence are in the same situation today as they were before the announcement,” Zapatero said in response to Batasuna’s call on Tuesday to be legalized.
Batasuna called on the government to begin steps to legalize the party ahead of municipal elections in 2011, following Sunday’s truce announcement.
“It’s our view that we (the party) should be legitimized now. The Spanish government will have to take steps toward to this and approve ... this test of democracy which they must face so that Batasuna can participate in the next elections,” a spokesman for ETA’s political wing said on Tuesday.
ETA has broken ceasefires several times in the past, most recently in 2006 when a truce was ended by a deadly bomb attack at Madrid’s airport. Past ceasefires have been seen by analysts as attempts by the organization to regroup with a view to launching further attacks.
Reporting by Judy MacInnes and Jonathan Gleave; writing by Jonathan Gleave; editing by Andrew Roche