After an hour and a half of talks with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, conservative opposition leader Mariano Rajoy said he was no more optimistic about the peace process in the Basque region. According to newspaper reports, the government met with ETA last week, for the first time since the separatist group called a ceasefire earlier this year. The opposition leader said he had received no guarantees the government would conform to conditions imposed by the right on reaching consensus with the militants.
Mariano Rajoy said: “I heard of no new development that makes me more optimistic. Nobody confirmed to me there was a meeting with ETA. I do not think that ETA renounced anything either. And while the street violence continues, there should be no contact made with the terrorist group.” The Spanish newspaper reports came out on the same day separatists had set as a deadline, saying they would walk away from the peace process if no progress was made. But the media reported ETA, represented by leader Josu Ternera at the talks, assured the government it would maintain the ceasefire.
Mariano Rajoy wants the group’s banned political ally, Batasuna, to be excluded from Basque elections, as well as from talks on the future structure of a Basque government, until ETA renounces violence. But the deputy prime minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega branded the conditions as “useless”. And police said that just in the past few days ETA supporters threw molotov cocktails at a bus and a cash machine. Fernandez de la Vega said in any case, any structural changes to the Basque region would need the agreement of the parliament.