Yesterday via a communication given to the BBC ETA, the Basque separatist organization, declared that ‘it had decided several months ago not to carry out violent action’. However the declaration, which was made using a video in which three people appear with their faces covered by hoods, omits to say whether ETA is calling a permanent or temporary ceasefire. The Spanish government has reacted cautiously to this announcement labelling it ‘insufficient’ because it says that it is nothing new. In the past there have been two ceasefires which were both temporary.
So far no official reaction has been given by the Spanish home office which is still analyzing the video and the details of the announcement. However a government spokesperson did say yesterday that the only announcement that the Spanish president would welcome would be one in which a permanent ceasefire was declared by ETA. In fact this ceasefire comes after a year in which ETA has not killed anyone and has been seriously weakened by police operations and judicial action in France, Spain and Portugal.
All parties in the Spanish parliament reacted cautiously to the news of the ceasefire and stressed that ETA needed to abandon violence hand over its weapons and break up. The Spanish parliament appeared to be united in calling the declaration ‘insufficient’.
As well as carrying out a detailed analysis of the text Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the Home Office Minister has contacted the Basque government.
The announcement said that ‘ETA says that it is willing today as yesterday to agree to the minimum democratic conditions to put into motion a democratic process if the Spanish government is willing’. It also said that ‘ETA had decided months ago to not carry out armed offensive action’ – an expression which does not clarify whether this current ceasefire is permanent or temporary.
In a move to internationalize any solution ETA called on the international community to participate in the construction of a permanent, just and democratic solution.
ETA also said that the Spanish state is conscious of the fact that the Basque Country is at a crossroads and reaffirmed its commitment to an independent Basque state. It also accused the Spanish government of blocking any possibility of an independent Basque state and of trying to avoid dialogue.
The Basque separatist group said in its declaration that ‘the moment had arrived to create a democratic framework for the Basque country respecting the desires of the majority of the Basque people’. It also said that ‘political change is possible but on the way there are no shortcuts’. However, ETA does not specify how long this current ceasefire will last in contrast to its declaration in 2006 in which it spoke about a ‘permanent ceasefire’.
It remains to be seen whether all those involved can seize the opportunity to create a long lasting historic settlement of the Basque conflict or whether this is just another temporary halt in the violence perpetrated by ETA which since it was created in 1959 has killed 820 people.