- Title: SPAIN: First ETA rally held after Friday ceasefire
- Date: 27th March 2006
- Summary: MORE OF PROTEST (4 SHOTS)
- Embargoed: 11th April 2006 13:00
- Location: Spain
- Country: Spain
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA4V33UHS8CMOI4LKD6YV4H1SGO
- Story Text: Some 10,000 people held a rally on Saturday (March 25) on the second day of Basque separatist group ETA's ceasefire declaration.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will visit Dublin within weeks to see what he can learn from the Irish peace process following ETA's move.
Zapatero is keen not to let momentum slip after the ETA guerrillas' declaration this week raised hopes of an end to their 38-year armed campaign, in which they have killed some 850 people.
"This demonstration has got a clearer meaning in politics now in the Basque country. I think that the demonstration has shown clearly that there is a broad commitment, a community-based broad committment in this country towards the need for a political resolution to the Basque conflict," said Pernando Darrena, spokesman for Batasuna.
"So for us it's very, very important to put in place a process for conflict resolution based on the personal interest of all the people itself," Darrena added.
On Friday (March 24), the first day of the truce, Zapatero said he would ask Spain's parliament to approve plans to initiate contacts with ETA before the summer.
ETA has called ceasefires before, but this is the first it has described as "permanent" rather than "unlimited" or "partial".
At a news conference in Brussels on Friday, Zapatero singled out Britain and Ireland for their "extremely useful" contribution to the process in the Basque Country.
Saturday's El Mundo newspaper said Zapatero had met British Prime Minister Tony Blair twice during his two-year premiership specifically to discuss lessons from the Irish peace process.
On Friday, Irish Roman Catholic priest Alec Reid, who has been heavily involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland, said he had been talking to figures in the Basque Country for around four years.
On Wednesday, Gerry Adams, leader of the Northern Irish republican party Sinn Fein, political ally of the Irish Republican Army guerrillas, urged the Spanish government to halt the trial of Arnaldo Otegi. Otegi is the leader of Batasuna, which is widely viewed as the political wing of ETA.
Otegi is due to appear in court next week and is likely to be jailed for breaking bail terms.
Although trust is still lacking at a political level between Northern Ireland's rival communities, the province has enjoyed unprecedented calm since ceasefires by the IRA and pro-British Protestant guerrillas paved the way for an historic peace deal to be signed in 1998.
Parallels between the conflict in the Basque Country and the one in Northern Ireland have long since been noted. Both exploded into life in the late 1960s and involved armed campaigns against state forces.
But there are many differences too.
Batasuna has never enjoyed the level of popular support that Sinn Fein commands in Northern Ireland and there is no equivalent in the Basque Country of the sectarian strife that plagued the British-ruled province for decades.
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