Basque peace group dissolves, says it's no longer needed

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 01, 2013 12:41 PM
Basque peace group dissolves, says it's no longer needed

BILBAO (Reuters) - A peace movement set up 28 years ago to counter the violence of the Basque militant group ETA formally dissolved on Saturday, saying that it had achieved its objective now that ETA has laid down its arms.

Three hundred people congregated for a minute's silence in Bilbao's Circular Square, the scene of A Gesture for Peace's first protest, when 200 people gathered in silence to protest the murder of four people by ETA in 1985.

ETA laid down weapons in October 2011 after four decades of armed struggle for independence for Basque lands in Spain and southern France that resulted in more than 800 deaths.

Those who gathered on Saturday included representatives of all the region's political parties as well as members of the movement. They released dozens of white balloons shaped like doves under grey skies in Bilbao.

Basque ombudsman Inigo Lamarca said it would have taken longer to end the region's violence without the group.

"A Gesture for Peace is breaking up, but its testimony, bravery and civic courage will live on," said Lamarca, whose job is to supervise regional offices.

Inaki Garcia Arrizabalaga, whose father was killed by ETA, spoke on behalf of victims to thank A Gesture for Peace for being a "moral crutch" during hard times and for speaking out against the violence long before other groups did.

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), which means Basque Homeland and Freedom, dates back to the late 1950s. Although the group has given up violence to achieve its ends, it says it continues to work towards a "definitive resolution".

Disarmament and treatment of ETA prisoners are key negotiation points yet to be resolved, and Spain's government insists ETA must formally disband.

(Reporting by Arantza Goyoaga in Bilbao; Writing by Clare Kane in Madrid; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)