by Gjermund E Jansen
Wed Sep 14th, 2005 at 09:02:30 AM EST
This would be a significant development - from the diaries (with minor edits) ~ whataboutbob
The armed Basque separatist group ETA is expected to call a ceasefire within three months after secret, indirect negotiations with the Spanish government, according to the Guardian Unlimited.
The newspaper El Mundo quoted unnamed sources as saying that a date for a ceasefire was "practically fixed" and only a change of heart by ETA would prevent a deal.
ETA or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna in Basque, was founded by students in 1953 and started originally as a political discussion group in the Basque city of Bilbao advocating Basque culture in an effort to boost Basque patriotism and awareness in direct opposition to Franco's National centralist policy. Franco's violent response to the Basque plea for cultural independence and political autonomy led to the creation of ETA in 1959 and the abolishing of their non-violent doctrine.
During the Franco years, and after ETA carried out a number of violent attacks against government and civilians alike, resulting in hundreds of casualties, the most devastating being the period between 1978-80 with a total of 235 fatalities.
When the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party or PSOE came to power after defeating the rightwing Party, Partido Popular, in 2004, the new spanish PM Jose Rodriguez Zapatero signaled a less confrontational approach to the Basque question.
El Mundo said intelligence service sources had told it that the talks advanced considerably in August. The Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero would react to the announcement of a ceasefire by seeking parliamentary permission to negotiate a permanent peace agreement, it added.
Observers said they would not be surprised if a ceasefire deal was close, but suspected it was premature to talk of a timetable. "The vox populi is that there have been contacts," said Julen de Madariaga, a former ETA leader who is now in a separatist party not linked to the group. "I don't see why anyone should start saying that there will be a ceasefire within three months. If an agreement is almost ready it would be a mistake to start broadcasting it now." He added that the news might have been leaked to put pressure on one side or the other.
ETA has called, and called off, ceasefires before, with a 1998 truce lasting 15 months. In recent months it has given out confusing signals. In June it called for a peace process and said it would stop attacking elected Spanish politicians. A month later, however, it said it would still target members of the government.
This article is also available at Bitsofnews.com.