Basque separatist group ETA declares ceasefire

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Flag of the Basque Country, currently an autonomous region within Spain.
Image: Stephen Browne.

ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), a separatist group based out of the Basque region of northern Spain, announced in a recorded and written message that it would end its armed campaign for independence, instead focusing on political means for achieving its goals. The Spanish government has rejected the ceasefire.

In the video sent to the BBC, ETA stated that, while the autonomy framework enshrined in the Spanish constitution is "not the way to satisfy the wishes of the Basque people", the organisation was committed to finding a democratic solution to the conflict.

Several analysts have suggested that this most recent ceasefire is based on ETA's tactics causing their support in the Basque region to plummet. Author Paddy Woodworth found in a recent trip to the region that the group's actions had made former supporters of the movement believe ETA was politically finished. The BBC's Sarah Rainsford said that ETA is at the weakest point in its 51-year history and that the ceasefire may just be a ploy to disguise that weakness.

The group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, have declared ceasefires several times before, which have all ended in a resumption of violence. The most recent ceasefire, in 2006, led to peace talks between the group and the Spanish government, but they were interrupted by a car-bombing at Madrid's Barajas Airport. The bombing was frowned upon by all involved in the peace process, including other Basque separatist parties in the region.

On September 6 the Spanish government rejected the ceasefire, saying that the group cannot be trusted after the last ceasefire, alleging that the group was calling the ceasefire because they were too weak to stage attacks, and asserting the ceasefire is a way for them to regroup and rearm. Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said Monday that the group would have to completely renounce violence for the government to accept the ceasefire.