The Spanish Prime Minister has met with leader of the conservative opposition Popular Party Mariano Rajoy in Madrid. Their talks follow days of increasing tension over the state of separatist group ETA’s so-called “permanent” cease fire. There were reports in two Spanish newspapers earlier this week, that the government met with ETA rebels for the first time since announcing a peace process in the Basque region.
The government refused to confirm or deny that talks took place, but the Interior Minister reaffirmed a promise to inform all major political parties of any developments in the peace process. ETA had set a deadline for December 20th, saying they’d walk away from the process if positive steps were not taken by then. But the newspapers cited officials as saying they were optimistic ETA would not break the ceasefire. Daily newspaper EL Pais said the separatist group’s chief Josu Ternera took part in the meeting, reportedly held outside the country.
The opposition leader insists any talks should be broken off immediately. But Zapatero wants them to continue, although his party says that will only happen when street violence and vandalism in the Basque region end. A vain hope it seems, given events over the past few days. Police said ETA supporters threw molotov cocktails at a bus in San Sebastian and a cash machine in Guipuzcoa. They also burnt tyres on a railway line in the town of Vitoria.