Spain’s main political parties clash over Basque peace process

After endless quibbling about how the Basque peace process should be managed, relations between Spain’s governing Socialist Party and the main opposition Popular Party hit yet another low yesterday, when the PP Secretary General, Angel Acebes, accused President Rodriguez Zapatero of sharing the same project as ETA and of giving the terrorists what they wanted. And in a radio interview, Mariano Rajoy claimed that the Government was “in the hands of ETA“.

The spokesman of the Socialists responded to the accusations by underlining his party’s desire for all political parties to participate in the peace process and insinuated that the declarations reflected internal divisions in the PP, and frustration within party ranks at their leader’s performance during the Nation Debate held in parliament last week.

Ever since Zapatero announced his intention to begin talks with the Basque terrorist Group last month, 2 months after ETA called the permanent ceasefire, leaders of the Popular Party have expressed their reticence to any negotiations starting before the terrorist group is dissolved and its members renounce all violence and apologise to the victims of their terrorist acts.

Their leader, Mariano Rajoy, said his party would support the process as long as ETA fulfilled these conditions.

Last week during a radio interview Patxi Lopez, leader of the Basque wing of the Socialist Party, said that members of the Basque Socialist Party would hold local preliminary talks with members of the illegal political wing of ETA before Zapatero’s programmed appearance in Congress to formally announce the start of peace talks.

The Popular Party immediately withdrew all its support from the peace process and announced its intention to put forward a motion in Congress today to prevent the government from going ahead with negotiations.

The text of the PP motion argues that negotation with an illegal terrorist organization is not possible and that the disappearance of ETA should be a necessary condition before any talks are held. No other political party in Congress is expected to support the motion and polls show that the majority of Spaniards support negotiations.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has begun a three-day visit to Spain today in a bid to support the Basque peace process. He will visit Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao. Many political commentators in Spain suspect that Adams has had a key role in persuading ETA to call a permanent cease-fire.

Negotiations between government and ETA
Spanish government and ETA negotiate possible ceasefire
Government proposes talks with ETA
Gerry Adams interviewed during his visit to Spain