BASQUE separatist group Eta has threatened to end its seven-month ceasefire unless talks with the Spanish government make progress before the end of autumn.
In a statement which appeared in the Basque newspaper Gara, the group accused the government of “harassing” its supporters. This was in response to the government blaming the theft of 400 pistols in France last month on Eta members.
The statement also said there must be “visible progress this autumn” in the planned dialogue with Madrid.
“Eta is going to make a new effort within the avenue of negotiation it has open with the Spanish government,” the statement read.
It continued: “For the peace effort to come out of the crisis that has prevented progress, the government must set aside repressive measures and cease attacks on separatist sympathizers and respect the will of Basque citizens.”
The group, which is responsible for the loss of 800 lives since it began its armed struggle in 1968, added “it would begin a new phase of struggle against the French government.”
Eta announced a permanent ceasefire in a televised statement on March 22. Madrid then announced in June planned peace talks with the group would begin at a later date.
There have been reports Madrid has held initial talks with Eta representatives in Norway but this has been denied by both sides.
Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero responded to the statement by saying peace will only be achieved “through the absence of violence.”
“The Government maintains its principles and position. The condition of dialogue is the end of Eta violence. The method and goal of the dialogue is the law. These are our principles,” he said speaking from the XVI Iberoamerican Summit in Uruguay.
Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega reaffirmed the government’s stance to achieve peace by “respecting the law and the family of the victims.”
The warnings, which were published in the November 4 edition of the newspaper, drew a lukewarm response from other members of central government.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said: “There are three basic ideas at play – a need for dialogue, a requirement of no violence and a result that follows nacional law.”
He added he did not consider the threats to be an ultimatum.
Partido Popular (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy reaffirmed his party’s opposition to the peace process.
“One should not negotiate with those who give ultimatums. These terrorists are threatening the government all the people of Spain,” he said.
María San Gil, the president of the PP in the Basque Country, added the only real objective of Eta is “that there is no peace.”
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