Basque Separatist Group to Launch Disarmament Initiative

ARITZ PARRA, AP

MADRID (AP) — A representative of civil society groups says the Basque separatist group ETA will complete its disarmament by April 8.

FILE – In this March 1, 2011 file photo, a display of munitions, weapons and 200 kilograms of explosives captured from the Basque separatist group ETA by the Civil Guard are displayed in Bilbao, northern Spain. Spanish media are reporting that ETA are set to announce Friday March 17, 2017 its new initiative to lay down weapons aimed at speeding the stalled process of disbanding. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos, File)

Txetx Etcheverry, a prominent figure in the French Basque community who tried to manage a disarmament effort in 2016, told Le Monde newspaper that a collective of civil society groups had received ETA’s mandate.

“ETA gave us the responsibility of disarming its arsenal, and the evening of April 8, ETA will be totally disarmed,” he said.

The militant band announced a permanent cease-fire in 2011.

Disarmament, if completed, would primarily be a symbolic step, given that the reduced arsenal in the hands of the militants is believed to be obsolete.

The governments of Spain and France have demanded that ETA to lay down its weapons without conditions, and to disband.

Etcheverry confirmed to The Associated Press that an announcement would be made by ETA later on Friday, but he declined to give details of its content.

ETA, founded in 1959 during the Spanish dictatorship of Francisco Franco, killed 829 people in its nearly four-decade campaign to create a Basque homeland in a region straddling northern Spain and southwest France.

It was most violent in the 1980s, staging hundreds of shootings of police, politicians and businesspeople.

One year after its last deadly attack, killing a French police officer near Paris in March 2010, the group announced it was renouncing violence.

The Spanish government was saying little about ETA on Friday until an actual announcement was made.

“ETA needs to do two things — to disarm and disband,” said Inigo Mendez de Vigo, the cabinet’s spokesman.

He added that the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has “not moved even one millimeter in its position for six years.”

Etcheverry, member of the Basque environmental organization Bizi, was among five well-known Basque activists arrested in December in the southern French town of Louhossoa after police said they had discovered a suspected ETA weapons trove.

They were charged with possession of explosives and weapons, released on bail and are awaiting trial.

The activists said the arrests by French and Spanish police were targeting peace activists managing the bands’ disarmament.

Basque regional leader Inigo Urkullu said its government was ready to assist in the disarmament process and asked the governments of Spain and France to show a high-minded attitude to reach a permanent solution.

The economically powerful Basque region, where there is a strong cultural identity and the Basque language is spoken along Spanish, is one of 17 semi-autonomous regions in Spain.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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