Spanish politicians are hoping a visit from the British prime minister will help kick-start the peace process in the Basque country. Analysts say they are hoping to draw on Tony Blair’s extensive experience in presiding over and brokering the peace deal in Northern Ireland. The issue is expected to top the agenda during Blair’s two day visit to Madrid.
The Socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said it is ready to talk to the Basque seperatist group ETA, after it announced a permanent ceasefire last March.
But ETA has said it will not relinquish its weapons until the region is given independance from Spain – a concept already ruled out by politicians in Madrid.
“There is no way to make these things work other than by patient determination to succeed, and there will be many ups and downs and many difficulties along the way. But it is always worth trying and it is worth persevering and it is sometimes very difficult to do it but in my view its always right to do it, so I wish you every success with it,” Blair told his Spanish counterpart.
During the course of the two-day visit, Zapatero is also expected to ask Blair to back his calls for more active support from the EU to cope with the influx of clandestine immigrants in the Canary Islands.