Annan, Adams urge Basque group ETA to end violence

AP News
Posted: Oct 17, 2011 12:50 PM
Annan, Adams urge Basque group ETA to end violence

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and other delegates to a conference on the decades-old conflict in Spain's Basque region on Monday urged the armed separatist group ETA to renounce violence.

ETA declared a permanent ceasefire in January, but has not renounced armed struggle as a tool for achieving an independent Basque state. The group has killed 829 people in bombings and shootings since the late 1960s. It is classified as a terrorist organization by Spain, the European Union and the United States.

The delegates said ETA also should request dialogue with the governments of Spain and France on the consequences of the conflict.

In the Basque conflict, such wording often refers to issues such as what to do with the 800-odd ETA prisoners scattered around the country in Spanish jails _ ETA wants them moved to the region to be closer to their families _ and how to disarm ETA.

Such wording would seem to rule out talks on political concessions such as Basque independence.

The delegates said that if ETA does declare a definitive end to violence, they would urge Madrid and Paris to undertake such talks.

The appeal was made in a statement after the three-hour closed-door conference organized by Basque pro-independence activists and parties and attended by international figures including Annan and Adams, leader of the political arm of the now-defunct Irish Republican Army.

The activists include former members of ETA's banned political wing Batasuna, which last year renounced violence. But Batasuna stopped short of renouncing ETA, and the statement Monday was signed only by the international delegates. The parties did not comment.

The statement, which was read out by former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, also said steps should be taken toward reconciliation and compensating victims of the Basque conflict.

The Spanish government and leading opposition conservative Popular Party did not attend the gathering in the Basque city of San Sebastian. They insist ETA must simply abandon arms and dissolve.