Spain demands that Eta apologise and disband

Spain on Saturday demanded that Basque separatist group Eta apologise for decades of violence and then disband "definitively" after it provided France with a list of arms caches to finalise a promise to disarm.

Spain demands that Eta apologise and disband
Police forces and demining team officers identify weapons handed by ETA in Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle on April 8. Photo: IROZ GAIZKA/AFP
In a statement, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the arms cache move signalled the “definitive defeat” of Eta, blamed for 829 deaths dating back to 1968.
Describing the separatist organisation as “terrorists”, Rajoy reiterated the group could expect no government favours as a result and “still less, impunity for their crimes”.
“The only logical response to this situation is (for Eta) to announce its definitive dissolution, to apologise to its victims and to disappear rather than mount media operations to disguise its defeat,” said a government statement.
Madrid added it would not make an “evaluation” of the weapons arsenal until French authorities have neutralised eight caches of weapons containing 120 firearms and three tonnes of explosives in the southwestern Pyrenees-Atlantiques department bordering Spain.
French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl earlier described the move to hand over remaining arms as a “major step”.
In 2011, Eta announced that it had abandoned its armed campaign, but did not give up its weapons. It also continued to insist on amnesty talks for some 360 jailed group members, 75 of them in France.


Basque exiles set for Spain return

Around 100 fugitives from ETA said Saturday they will return to the Spanish Basque country from southwestern France as the considerably weakened separatist group moves towards a historic disarmament.

Basque exiles set for Spain return
Members of the International Verification Commission (IVC) being handed documents by masked members of ETA in an undisclosed location in January 2014. Photo: Naiz Info/AFP.

Earlier this month western Europe's last major violent separatist movement said it would put its arsenal of weapons "out of operational use," more than two years after announcing a definitive end to armed activity.

"To continue the process of resolution, it is necessary to bring all prisoners and exiles back home," said a statement from ETA read out Saturday in the French Basque village of Arcangues.

"We will begin to walk the streets of our hometowns. You will see us back in the streets and squares of our villages of origin."

ETA said last year that it counted 500 to 600 exiles around the world, including about 150 in France.

The group has also called for the release of some 500 of its members who are held in French and Spanish prisons, which has been a key sticking point in negotiations with Madrid.