Sinn Féin ‘heavily involved’ in push for ETA ceasefire, says Gerry Adams

GERRY ADAMS LEADER OF SINN FEIN

GERRY ADAMS LEADER OF SINN FEIN

Writing in the Guardian, Gerry Adams says his party held a series of meetings with Basque separatists

Sinn Féin’s leader, Gerry Adams, said today his party had been heavily involved in pushing the Basque separatist group Eta towards calling a ceasefire at the weekend.

As the Spanish government ruled out negotiations and claimed Eta had announced the ceasefire because it was now too weak to carry out terrorist attacks, Adams, writing in the Guardian today, said the move had been the result of months of talks among Basque separatists.

“This dialogue also involved senior Sinn Féin representatives, including myself,” he said. “Sometimes the discussions were held in the Basque country, sometimes in Belfast and on a number of occasions in recent years Sinn Féin representatives travelled to Geneva for meetings with Basque representatives.” It was not clear whether the meetings were with members of Eta, or only with other radical separatist groups from the Basque country.

Eta had responded by calling a ceasefire that, Adams hoped, would be grasped by the Spanish government as an opportunity to start a peace process that might follow some of the principles used in Ulster.

The Sinn Féin leader’s words contrasted, however, with the reaction of prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s government in Madrid, which said it would not talk to Eta.

“Eta kills in order to impose itself, that means one cannot [have] dialogue,” said the interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. “The word truce, as the idea of a limited peace to open a process of dialogue, is dead.”

Zapatero’s government last tried negotiating with Eta when it called a ceasefire four years ago. That truce ended nine months later when a bomb at Madrid’s Barajas airport killed two people. Rubalcaba agreed that Eta had effectively been observing a ceasefire for months, but said this was because it wanted to reorganise and escape intense police pressure in Spain and parts of Europe.

“What they do not say is that they decided to stop months ago because they were so weak,” he said. “Eta has stopped because it cannot do anything, and also in order to rebuild itself.”

He claimed the ceasefire announcement was also an attempt by Eta to keep control over the increasingly tired and fractious radical Basque separatist groups that have traditionally backed a terrorism campaign that has claimed more than 800 lives over four decades.

These are the same groups, headed by former leaders of the banned Batasuna separatist party, that Sinn Féin has been helping.

“The aim is to try to cover up their weakness,” said Rubalcaba. “Because if Eta is weak those groups in the separatist worldwho are rebellious against them grow in strength.”

One of Eta’s founders, Julen de Madariaga, said that the group’s current weakness was more the result of a loss of support among ordinary Basques than due to police action.

“The main reason for Eta’s weakness is that over the past 12 to 15 years the people who used to support it have abandoned it,” Madariaga, who distanced himself from the group’s tactics years ago, told the Guardian by telephone. He said the decision by leaders of the banned Batasuna party to stop bowing to Eta’s line and to push for peace was more than overdue.”It was time that Batasuna made things clear to Eta and took charge of itself,” he said.

Analysts pointed to a double bind for Eta as it was squeezed by police on one side and by its own supporters on the other.

“The ceasefire statement aims to give political meaning to a strategic rest decreed by Eta’s leaders six months ago in order to reorganise internally to cope with police pressure,” wrote Florencio Dominguez, an Eta expert, in La Vanguardia newspaper.

Dominguez pointed to the arrest in February of Ibon Gojeaskoetxea, a senior Eta commander, as a key moment. That arrest was hailed as the fifth time in two years that police had detained the person directly in charge of Eta’s handful of remaining armed units.

At the same time, police had prevented new units from being formed in several parts of Spain, and discovered Eta’s latest bombmaking laboratory. It had also dismantled its new bases in Portugal, to where Eta had hoped to move its support infrastructure that historically had been based in France.

It was in February, too, that Batasuna leaders won the support of thousands of local activists for a proposal for a new process of talks over the future of the Basque country that would require Eta to give up violence.

“Sunday’s statement did not come out of the blue,” said Adams. “I believe it has the potential to bring about a permanent end to the conflict with the Spanish state.”

Homage to Catalonia: People defy Madrid casting ballots in symbolic independence vote

Catalunya teus fills i filles luchand per la teva independència del jou espanol!

 

 

 

http://rt.com/news/203627-independenc…

High numbers of Catalan voters are determined to take part in the highly-anticipated symbolic poll on Sunday on whether to split from Spain and become an independent country.

“People seem extremely enthusiastic. If you walk through the streets in Barcelona that energy is palpable,” RT’s Marina Portnaya reported, adding that banners, posters and ribbons are being displayed throughout the city in support of Catalonia’s “consultative vote.”

Organizers told RT that over 1,300 polling centers have been set up for what is expected to be a “high turnout.” There’s also been an army of volunteers, up to 50,000 people, making phone calls to people living across Catalonia, informing them where to go and how to vote.

Regional police are on high alert, but organizers believe that officers are unlikely to stand in their way or to block voters from casting their ballots.

There have been several challenges that organizers and volunteers have faced, leading up to the consultative vote, Portnaya said.

“Madrid sent letters to the public schools that are serving as polling sites, threatening them, saying that it’s illegal for schools to take part in an election, even though this is a non-binding unofficial consultation vote.”

Many pro-independence volunteers received robot calls all day long on Saturday, Portnaya reported, in an apparent effort to monopolize their mobile phones and drain their batteries to prevent them from using them.

After Spain’s High Court ruled the independence referendum proposed by Catalan leader Artur Mas unconstitutional last month, the Madrid government has also issued a ban on the informal poll, forbidding Catalans from making any public show of support for independence.

Thousands rallied in front of the National Museum of Catalonia on Friday, however, in an effort to show resolve to stage the November 9 so-called “consultative vote,” despite warnings from Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy’s government to disrupt it.

People wait on November 9, 2014 outside a school in Barcelona to vote in a symbolic ballot on whether to break away as an independent state, defying fierce challenges by the Spanish government. (AFP Photo/Lluis Gene)

People wait on November 9, 2014 outside a school in Barcelona to vote in a symbolic ballot on whether to break away as an independent state, defying fierce challenges by the Spanish government. (AFP Photo/Lluis Gene)

READ MORE: Catalans gear up for symbolic independence vote Sunday defying Madrid’s ban

Rajoy said ahead of the vote: “The law will be enforced. There will be no referendum that calls into question the sovereignty of the Spanish nation. There will be no division of Spanish territory while I am prime minister.”

However, according to opinion polls, up to 80 percent of Catalans want more autonomy from Spain, with about 50 percent backing full independence. With its own language and culture, the comparatively well-off autonomous region has a population of 7.5 million and accounts for nearly one-quarter of Spain’s GDP.

“According to the organizers…within the first four hours of polls being opened, nearly 1,143,000 Catalans turned out to vote – that’s just in the first four hours. Polls will be open for 11 hours. So clearly that is an indication that many are coming out to cast their ballots,” Portnaya stated.

People take part in a Sardana dance, a typical Catalan dance, near the cathedral in Barcelona, November 8, 2014. (Reuters/Gustau Nacarino)

Ukraine Passes Bill on Amnesty for East Ukraine Independence Supporters

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Oleh Tyahnibok is the leader of the Neo-Nazi Ukrainian nationalist political party Svodoba, currently one of the five major parties of the country. Three members of the party hold positions in Ukraine’s government.

Topic: Situation in the South-East of Ukraine

KIEV, September 16 (RIA Novosti) – The parliament of Ukraine passed Tuesday a bill to declare amnesty for eastern Ukraine independence supporters who committed administrative or criminal offenses in their regions starting from February 22.

The initiative was approved by 277 lawmakers with the required minimum of 226 votes. It will enter force once signed by the president and published by the official media.

The discussions were held in a closed regime. It is currently unknown whether the initial bill was amended during hearings.

The bill, submitted to the parliament by President Petro Poroshenko, envisages that militia members and their supporters “are freed from criminal responsibility on the condition they do not hold anyone hostage, laid down their weapons and explosives, does not occupy administrative or other buildings or block state structures and organizations.”

Those who agree to the terms, will be freed from criminal responsibility or fines.

However, the bill does not apply to people suspected of grave crimes and those whom the Kiev government accused of involvement in the MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine (the MH17 jet was downed by the Ukrainian army!)  or posed hindrances to the investigation.

RT Breaking News: Special status to E. Ukraine regions, amnesty to combatants – parliament

Ukraine Parliament approves Special Status for East Ukraine Regions – for 3 years?
 

The Ukrainian parliament has approved laws on special status for the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions, as well as amnesty for pro-independence freedom fighters.

The special status law has received 277 ‘yes’ votes from a total of 450 MPs, while the amnesty law was approved by 287 parliamentary members. The session of the Verkhovna Rada is underway during which MPs are to ratify an agreement with the EU.

The law on the special status of Lugansk and Donetsk Regions guarantees the right to use and study Russian or any other language in Ukraine.

It also states that local elections are to take place in the regions on December 7.

The head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, Igor Plotnitsky, earlier welcomed the law on special status for Ukraine’s eastern regions proposed by to Ukraine President Poroshenko by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The law on the special status of Donbass generally reflects the priorities we voiced at the September 1 negotiations. That’s why, even though a lot remains unclear, we may say that a peaceful solution has received its first chance of being implemented,” Plotnitsky told RIA Novosti.

Minsk protocol: Ukraine to be decentralized, special status for Lugansk, Donetsk

The PM of the Donetsk People’s Republic Aleksandr Zakharchenko has reacted to the news of the law being passed by saying it should first be signed by President Poroshenko, RIA Novosti reports.

“First let Poroshenko sign it, let it be published and come into force. Then we’ll translate it into Russian, read it and give an assessment,” Zakharchenko said.

The law on ‘Prevention of prosecution and punishment of participants of events in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions’ offers amnesty to those anti-government fighters who release all prisoners, hand in all weapons and vacate all occupied government buildings within a month following the law’s enactment.

The laws have been part of a peace roadmap negotiated by Poroshenko and representatives of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The roadmap also included an agreement to a ceasefire, which came into force September 5.

The truce has been barely holding with numerous reports on violations and both the troops and the anti-government fighters blaming each other for sporadic shootings.

Another part of the peace plan proposed by President Putin – a prisoner exchange – has been gradually implemented.

The OSCE has revealed the 12-point roadmap behind the September 5 truce signed in Minsk. It says that Ukraine must adopt a new law, allowing for a special status for Lugansk and Donetsk regions, and hold early elections there.

The document, titled ‘Protocol on the results of consultations of the Trilateral Contact Group’ and signed in Minsk on September 5, outlines what needs to be done for the ceasefire to stay in place.

“To decentralize power, including through the adoption by Ukraine of law ‘on provisional procedure for local government in parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions (law on special status),’” states one of the provisions in the document.

Another point emphasizes that “early local elections” are to be held in light of the special status of both regions. The early elections must be held in accordance with the same proposed law, it says.

Kiev must then continue an “inclusive nationwide dialogue,” the document stresses.

The roadmap also implies an amnesty for anti-government forces in Donbass: “To adopt a law, prohibiting prosecution or punishment of people in relation to the events that took place in individual areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.”

Anti-government rebels rest outside a house in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk, September 5, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

Anti-government rebels rest outside a house in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaysk, September 5, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

At the same time, it notes that all “illegal military formations, military equipment, as well as militants and mercenaries” have to be withdrawn from Ukraine.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) published a copy of the protocol early on Sunday, with only a PDF document in Russian available so far.

During the meeting on September 5, Kiev officials and representatives of the two self-proclaimed republics in southeastern Ukraine have agreed to a ceasefire.

Some of the other provisions of the truce include monitoring of the ceasefire inside Ukraine and on the Russia-Ukraine border by international OSCE observers, the freeing of all prisoners of war, and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

A “safety zone” is to be created with the participation of the OSCE on the Russia-Ukraine border, the document says.

It also calls for measures to improve the dire humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, and urges in a separate point that a program for Donbass’ economic development is to be adopted.

Since the conflict significantly deteriorated in mid-April, 2,593 people have died in fighting in the east of the country, according to the UN’s latest data. More than 6,033 others have been wounded in the turmoil.

The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia.

 

A Ukrainian serviceman sit ontop of an armoured personnel carrier during a patrol on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions near town of Debaltseve, on September 5, 2014. (AFP Photo / Anatoliy Stepanov)

A Ukrainian serviceman sit ontop of an armoured personnel carrier during a patrol on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions near town of Debaltseve, on September 5, 2014. (AFP Photo / Anatoliy Stepanov)