Basque parties fail to unite in declaration against ETA

Planned peace marches canceled due to lack of consensus between nationalist groupings

consensus Thursday on a declaration in response to ETA's announcement last week of a "definitive end" to its campaign of terrorist violence. Although the pro-independence platform Bildu gave its approval to a draft, the centrist Union Progreso y Democracía (UPyD) prevented a joint statement from being released.

The Vitoria parliament eventually published a text in the form of a declaration from the regional premier's office that limited itself to expressing satisfaction that "ETA has decided to finally announce a definitive end to violence" and recognition of the part played by Basque society in bringing it about. UPyD said it did not back the statement as it should also have taken the opportunity to "demand the dissolution of the terrorist group."

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Also on Thursday, it was announced that marches for peace planned for Saturday in the region would not go ahead after the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) withdrew its support for the initiative. At a meeting with regional premier Patxi López on Monday, PNV leader Iñigo Urkullu supported the proposal but later backtracked as Bildu would not be attending. Other pro-sovereignty groupings, such as Aralar, said they would join the march. The leader of Eusko Alkartasuna, Peio Urizar, said the radical abertzale left, which held its own rally in Bilbao last Saturday, "gives complete freedom to its members to join the march with the rest of the parties if they so desire."

The Basque interior chief, Rodolfo Ares, accused the PNV of competing with Bildu ahead of November's general elections. "This initiative is a chance to unite, not disunite," Ares said in the regional assembly, adding that López did not think it reasonable to go ahead without the consensus "of all those who have worked together to demand the end of ETA." Neither was postponement considered: "Either we do this before the elections or we don't do it all," Ares said.

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