The Basque militant group ETA will make the highly anticipated announcement of its dissolution on the first weekend in May, an international mediator told Basque radio Thursday.
Alberto Spektorowski, one of a group of international mediators brokering talks on a definitive end to the conflict in Spain’s northern Basque region, said that “failing a last-minute surprise” ETA would make the announcement on May 5 or 6.
“The declaration that ETA no longer exists will be very clear,” the Israeli academic, a member of the International Contact Group, told Basque radio EITB.
“I cannot say what words they will use but no one will be left in any doubt,” he said, adding that the announcement would be made across the border, in the French Basque region.
ETA waged a nearly four-decade fight for an independent Basque state that killed at least 829 people before it announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011.
Last year it went a step further and laid down its arms.
Spain’s 2.2-million-strong Basque region is now gearing up for the dissolution of the ETA group created in 1959 at the height of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.
Spektorowski said the Basque region was entering a new “post-ETA” phase.
“It will be clear that a chapter of the history of the Basque Country and of Spain is closed,” he said.
The language used by ETA in its statement will be scrutinized closely, however, for proof that it is sincere about disbanding.
In a statement announcing a press conference Monday in the French city of Bayonne, one of the groups involved in the peace process, Bake Bidea, avoided talk of “dissolution,” referring instead to ETA’s “demobilization.”
Bayonne Mayor Jean-Rene Etchegarray insisted on the need for clear language.
“Things must be perfectly clear, words are important. The demobilisation began in 2011 when ETA announced its ceasefire,” he said.
On Wednesday, Spain’s Supreme Court confirmed 535-year prison sentences for two of the group’s members. Liher Aretxabaleta Rodriguez and Alaitz Aramendi Jaunarena were sentenced for 45 “terrorist murder attempts,” and denied on appeal.
They are also accused of having placed a car bomb in the San Blas district of Madrid in May 2005 “with the intention of causing as much damage as possible, accepting the potential death or injuries of people there or nearby.”
Beyond ETA’s dissolution, questions remain over how to move forward.
Nationalists and peace negotiators want former ETA prisoners to be reintegrated into society as a necessary step for cementing lasting peace, while some victims are first demanding the separatist group apologise for its past deeds.
Spektorowski said ETA’s main demand is that jailed Basque nationalists be moved closer to their families.
“France has already done that … but the Spanish state still has some problems with that,” he said.
Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido sounded an uncompromising note.
Reacting to news of the imminent dissolution, he said: “ETA obtained nothing for stopping the killing and will also get nothing for declaring its dissolution.”
With reporting from AFP