MADRID (Reuters) - A decision by imprisoned members of ETA to join a peace drive in Spain’s Basque Country is welcome but does not go far enough because ETA must disband, the government said Saturday.
The EPPK prisoner collective, representing some 700 ETA members in jails across Spain and France, decided Friday to sign the 2010 Guernica agreement which demands the separatist group lay down its arms in favour of peace talks, government spokesman Jose Blanco said.
“The government considers it an important step, a significant step, but not the step that all of Spanish society wants to see because it is not the definitive one,” Blanco said national radio.
ETA has killed more than 850 people in its half-century of armed struggle for an independent state in northern Spain and southwest France.
The many groups which make up the Basque separatist movement demand the Spanish state give better treatment for ETA prisoners, including day passes, relocation to Basque prisons and, in some cases, immediate release.
Spain’s government has been unresponsive to requests for better conditions and recently supported the 10-year prison sentence given to separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi for allegedly conspiring with ETA to restart ETA’s political wing.
A march Saturday evening protesting against the sentence handed to Otegi, who has become a symbol of the radical separatist movement’s rejection of violence, will take place in the Basque country’s largest city, Bilbao.
Reporting By Teresa Larraz and Jonathan Gleave