‘No negotiations with assassins’ – that was the rallying cry of several hundred people in Madrid who were protesting against the government’s decision to start peace talks with ETA. The demonstration was staged by a support group for those affected by the terror campaign of the Basque separatist organisation. Their anger was directed at Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodgriguez Zapatero.
He has given no details of where and when the talks will take place. But he said it was an opportunity for peace and that his government was going to work to make it succeed. The Basque independence party, Batasuna, which is banned over alleged links to ETA, welcomed the initiative.
A spokesman said Zapatero had committed the government to respecting decisions, which he said, were “taken freely by the Basque people.” The Basque region already enjoys a high degree of autonomy. The dialogue is likely to focus on the transfer of ETA prisoners and disarmament. But opposition politicians opposed to the talks will try to ensure victims’ concerns remain paramount.