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.”

Basque Ceasefire Statement: Full Text

Eta-statement-007

Members of the Basque separatist group Eta make a ceasfire staement, the full text of which is below. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

With this declaration, Euskadi ta Askatasuna, the Basque socialist revolutionary organisation for national liberation, wishes to give news of its decision:

Eta considers that the international conference that has recently taken place in the Basque country is an initiative of enormous significance. The agreed resolution includes all the elements for an integral solution of the conflict, and it has attained the support of a wide spectrum of the Basque society and the international community.

A new political time is emerging in the Basque country. We have an historical opportunity to find a just and democratic solution for the centuries old political conflict. Dialogue and agreement should outline the new cycle, over violence and repression. The recognition of the Basque country and the respect for the will of the people should prevail over imposition.

This has not been an easy road. The cruelty of the fight has taken away the lives of many comrades. Many others are still suffering in prison and in exile. Our recognition and deepest tribute goes out to them.

From here on the road will not be easy either. Facing the imposition that still exists, every step, every achievement, will be the result of the effort and fight of Basque citizens. During these years the Basque country has accumulated the necessary experience and strength to address this path and it also has the determination for doing it. It is time to look at the future with hope. It is also time to act with responsibility and courage.

Therefore, Eta has decided the definitive cessation of its armed activity. Eta calls upon the Spanish and French governments to open a process of direct dialogue with the aim of addressing the resolution of the consequences of the conflict and, thus, to overcome the armed confrontation. Thorough this historical declaration, Eta shows its clear, solid and definitive commitment.

Lastly, Eta calls upon the Basque society to commit to this process until freedom and peace are achieved.

Long live the free Euskal Herria! Long live Basque socialism! No rest until independence and socialism!

Basque country, 20 October 2011

Euskadi ta Askatasuna

Eta

Peace is for everyone

Into our climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But, true Peace.

Vancouver-riot-kiss-coupl-001

THE RIOT KISS

 There’s a place that I know where the sycamores grow
And daffodils have their fun
Where the cares of the day seems to slowly fade away
And the glow of the evening sun
Peace when the day is done:

If I go there real late, let my mind meditate on everything to be done
If I search deep inside, let my conscience be my guide
Then the answers are sure to come
I don’t want a diamond ring. Love and peace is all I want

When you find a piece of mind
Leave you worries behind
Don’t say that it can’t be done
With a new point of view
Life’s true meaning comes to you
And the freedom you seek is one
Peace is for everyone