Spain government and ETA negotiate possible cease-fire

According to this morning’s edition of El Mundo, the Spanish government and members of Basque terrorist group ETA have been maintaining “indirect” talks since the Summer and ETA has agreed to announce a cease-fire sometime in the next three months.

Spain’s president, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has repeatedly said that the predisposition of his government to sit at a negotiation table with Basque separatists and consider increased powers for the Basque government depend on ETA first laying down its arms. If the Basque terrorists do announce a cease-fire, Zapatero will probably ask the Spanish congress to give its approval for the government to hold talks with all Basque separatist groups, including ETA, and seek agreement which would establish peace in the Region and the eventual disarmament of the group.

According to the El Mundo headline story, the official line is that “both sides are at the stage of negotiating a possible truce”, but that infact ETA has already agreed to do so, and now the negotiations center around the wording of the announcement and when, within the next three months, it should be made.

El Mundo claims that talks started moving in the right direction last August, when ETA started to be more positive about making a move which could speed up a possible peace process.

Last week the Spanish president had a meeting with José Ibarretxe in Madrid and both leaders refused to go into any detail about what they discussed. The next day, when asked repeatedly about the contents of the meeting, Ibarretxe replied that he had promised total discretion and meant to keep his word.

He asked journalists to understand that for negotiations to have a positive outcome, discretion was necessary. He also said “we are doing something very important”.