Wednesday 28 June 2017

Spain rejects ETA's truce as an attempt to 'regroup'

Daniel Woolls in Madrid

THE Spanish government last night flatly rejected a new ceasefire announcement by the separatist group ETA.

They also ruled out negotiations on an independent Basque homeland, saying the militants have been decimated by arrests and are desperate to regroup and rearm.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said ETA cannot be trusted after shattering a 2006 truce with a deadly car bombing. He said its video statement on Sunday by three hooded militants falls short of what Basque society and other Spaniards demand: that ETA renounce violence for good.

"The word truce, as the idea of a limited peace to open a process of dialogue, is dead," said Mr Perez Rubalcaba, adding that Spain will be "as tough as ever" against ETA.

"The Interior Ministry will keep its anti-terrorism policy intact, absolutely intact. We are not going to change that policy one bit, not a single comma," he told Spanish National Television.

ETA has killed more than 825 people as it has fought for an independent homeland in parts of northern Spain and southwestern France since the late 1960s. Its last deadly attack in Spain was in July 2009, when it killed two policemen with a car bomb. Nearly 240 of its members have been arrested since 2008. Mr Perez Rubalcaba says the militant group declared the truce because it is so weak it cannot stage attacks.

The ceasefire statement left several key questions unanswered. Apart from the silence over whether ETA will surrender its weapons, it did not say if the truce was open-ended and permanent -- like the one declared in 2006 and which led to talks with the government -- or whether it would halt other activities like extorting money from business leaders or recruiting members.

Since late last year, divisions have widened between ETA and the political parties that support it. Jailed ETA veterans have also been distancing themselves from the group. Mr Perez Rubalcaba said that ETA's breaking the 2006 ceasefire -- with a massive car bombing at Madrid airport that left two people dead -- had cost the group credibility even among political supporters who seek Basque independence.

The minister said ETA's latest tactic is to seek new negotiations and, if in a few months or a year the government still refuses, ETA will say it has no choice but to revert to bombs or bullets.

Irish Independent

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