Spain rejects ETA call for talks, saying group must disband

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 25, 2012 8:40 AM
Spain rejects ETA call for talks, saying group must disband

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's government rejected an offer of talks from armed Basque separatists ETA and demanded the group dissolve itself without conditions, after ETA called for negotiations on prisoners and a weapons handover.

ETA said in a statement published in Basque media on the weekend it wanted to enter talks with Spain and France to negotiate a definitive end to military operations and a handover of its arms.

"The only statement we expect and demand is for its unconditional dissolution," Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told reporters on Sunday.

"They know we have not negotiated and won't negotiate at all with a terrorist organization."

A year ago ETA announced an end to a four-decade armed struggle for independence in which more than 800 people were killed, but did not fully halt operations or turn over its weapons. The group has broken ceasefires in the past.

ETA has been significantly weakened in recently years, as many of its leaders have been arrested and arms caches seized.

Hundreds of ETA prisoners are in jail across Spain. The group wants talks on having them moved to the Basque region in return for dismantling its military structure and turning in weapons.

ETA said in the statement successful talks on these areas "would bring about a definitive end of the armed conflict".

(Reporting by Jesus Aguado; Editing by Fiona Ortiz)