A Basque nationalist party banned by the Spanish government is calling for peace talks. At a rally in San Sebastian, Batasuna leaders have put forward a strategy to end a long-running conflict in the region. The party is accused by Spain of being the political wing of the separatist guerrilla group ETA. “It’s more difficult to make peace sometimes than to make war,” says Batasuna’s leader Arnaldo Otegi. “To make peace means getting the political and armed conflict off the streets and taking it to the negotiating table. To make peace means even going so far in the end as to seek the involvement of our enemies.”
Batasuna is calling for an agreement between ETA, France and Spain on demilitarisation, and a referendum in the Basque country on its future. The party, however, has failed to condemn ETA violence, and media speculation that it might call for an ETA ceasefire did not materialise.
The separatist group has been under increased pressure this year, with police arresting more than 100 suspected members, including the alleged leader. Branded a terrorist group by Spain, the EU and the US, ETA has killed some 850 people since 1968. Batasuna denies being the political wing of ETA but it shares its aims for independence. Early reaction from senior officials in Spain’s mainstream parties have been mixed, but many say Batasuna must call on ETA to stop its violence.