Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness has welcomed a statement by ETA to wind down its military structures and capacity.
Martin McGuinness and Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Johnathan Powell were in the Basque Country earlier this week where they met with local political parties and groups. The purpose of the visit was to take political stock of the situation since the Aiete Peace Conference in Donostia/San Sebastian in 2011.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and other international figures including Johnathan Powell, Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Bruntland, Bertie Ahern and Pierre Joxe attended the Aiete conference. Since then, ETA has announced a ceasefire and started a process to deal with the issue of arms.
Martin McGuinness said:
“Johnathan Powell and I did a series of meetings with political parties and groups in the Basque Country this week, which were very positive. There is clearly overwhelming support in Basque society for a resolution of the conflict.
“The total cessation by ETA and the subsequent commencement of the process to deal with the issue of arms were important steps in themselves. Tonight’s statement by ETA to wind down its military structures and capacity is another huge step forward in the peace process in the Basque Country.
“Other actors in the process should take this important opportunity to move the peace process forward. There is a number of confidence building measures which can be taken to advance the process of conflict resolution.
“The immediate release of the Secretary General of SORTU, Arnaldo Otegi, would be an important first step. He has been a key player in the building of the peace process. His imprisonment is for clear political reasons and is an obvious impediment to progress.
“Basque prisoners who have been dispersed far from their homes should be transferred closer to their families and seriously ill prisoners released. These and other related measures would facilitate progress in the Basque peace process.”