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Adams welcomes Basque Peace Initiative

21 February, 2014 - by Gerry Adams

"I want to commend the historic initiative by ETA to unilaterally put a significant amount of its armed materials beyond operational use as a first step toward complete disarmament. This is a vitally important decision and a significant advance in the Basque peace process." – Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD has warmly welcomed the historic initiative by ETA and confirmed by the Verification Committee today.

The International Verification Committee was tasked by ETA in 2013 to oversee a process of putting arms, ammunition and explosives beyond operational use.

Today it confirmed that in January it verified that significant amount of arms, explosives and ammunition were put beyond operational use. They have taken an inventory and video for future use.

The Verification Committee expressed the view that this is a first step toward complete disarmament.

The Sinn Féin leader said: “I want to commend the historic initiative by ETA to unilaterally put a significant amount of its armed materials beyond operational use as a first step toward complete disarmament. This is a vitally important decision and a significant advance in the Basque peace process.

I am convinced that they are serious about peace and that this is another indication of their commitment to peaceful and democratic politics.

I also want to commend the work of the Verification Committee (the International Commission of Verification of Ceasefire in the Basque County) - which has overseen this important initiative by ETA.

This is a good news story for the Basque peace process which has sought to match the success of the Irish peace process.

Since before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 Sinn Féin has been involved in helping to assist the building of a peace process in the Basque country. The Irish peace process is seen by many as a model - an example - of what can be achieved if there is political will.

There is overwhelming support within Basque society for a resolution of the conflict.   

There is an onus on the Spanish and French governments to respond positively to the announcement by the Verification Committee.

Peace processes need constant attention and encouragement, and the active and positive participation of all sides. The Spanish and French governments have a key role to play in promoting a process of dialogue that can advance the goal of a just and lasting peace in the Basque Country. That means responding in a positive way.

Confidence building measures – which were an important part of the Irish peace process - can assist in this. In the context the release of Arnaldo Otegi, Secretary General of SORTU would be an important step.

The Spanish and French governments should also end the policy of dispersion, an arbitrary measure applied to Basque prisoners, and transfer prisoners to prisons closer to their families. Seriously ill prisoners who need treatment should also be released under exisiting legislation.

These and other related measures would make a real difference in strengthening the peace process and facilitate progress toward demilitarisation and national reconciliation.

Note to Editor:

In 1998, after the Good Friday Agreement Gerry Adams travelled to the Basque country. He  travelled again in 2005, 2006 and again in 2011.

All of these visits were aimed at encouraging the development of a Basque peace process and to persuade the main players on the Basque and Spanish side to engage in dialogue.

In September 2010 ETA announced a ceasefire. It came after a long process of dialogue and internal discussion among Basque activists. This dialogue involved Gerry Adams and other Sinn Féin representatives.

 Sometimes the discussions were held in the Basque country, sometimes in Belfast and on a number of occasions in recent years senior Sinn Féin representatives travelled to Geneva for meetings with Basque representatives and other international players.

 In October 2011 ETA announced a definitive cessation of its armed activity.

 Many in the Basque country look to the Irish peace process for inspiration. And much of what has been attempted there in the last decade has been modeled on the Irish experience.

In February 2010 a conference of the Abertzale Regional Assemblies (Abertazle Left), which includes the banned Basque party Batasuna, agreed a new broad front approach. This too draws heavily from the Irish experience as is clearly evident in the language used.

  • The strategy committed Abertzale Left to using ‘exclusively political and democratic means’ to advance its political objectives.
  • It seeks to advance political change “in a complete absence of violence and without interference’ and ‘conducted in accordance with the Mitchell Principles.’
  • And its political goal is achieve a “stable and lasting peace in the Basque country.”

In October 2011 saw a Sinn Féin delegation travelled to the Basque country along with Jonathan Powell, former Chief of Staff to Tony Blair, and others.

Gerry Adams participated in a conference in Donostia - San Sebastian in Euskadi entitled; ‘International conference to promote the resolution of the conflict in the Basque County’.

The event had been organised by a range of groups, including the Basque Citizen Network for Agreement and Consultation, Lokarri, the International Contact Group (GIC) led by South African lawyer Brian Currin, and four other international foundations.

It also involved former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; Pierre Joxe, former French Defense and Interior Minister;  former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Gro Harland Bruntland, a former Norwegian Prime Minister.