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26 / 06 / 2004
For Peace, Elkarri and Gesto come closer at the Forum dialogues

Both associations agree that violence has increasingly lost legitimacy in Basque society due to March 11 and that non-exclusion is one of the most important factors in making headway in the peace process.

In response to the question “Is Peace Possible in the Basque Region” the coordinator of Elkarri, Jonan Fernández and spokesperson for Gesto por la Paz, Jesús Herrero, put their respective opinions about the current situation in the Basque Region on the table. As part of the Dialogue sessions of “Toward a World Without Violence” both representatives responded positively to a proposal made, although the director of Elkarri did so in a much more positive, open way. Specifically, Jonan Fernández was convinced that Basque society “is fed up and demands solutions, especially after last March”. “There are four circumstances needed for peace on good terms in the Basque Region: that peace is needed, is viable, opportune, and that there is a great commitment to making it possible,” he added. “The most important circumstance is the opening of a revision of the legal-political framework.”

Fernández went on to say that “we have opportunities we haven’t had in a very, very long time, because the violence is in crisis, it’s more unacceptable in our society than before and the proof is that ETA hasn’t killed in a year.” “It’s an unprecedented situation; the solution exists and we just have to agree on the process we need to begin.” Thus, he said, “an end to the violence is essential, but we cannot exclude a part of the political spectrum,” a reference to the “political parties law” that meant the illegalization of the party Batasuna and the shutting down of the newspaper Egunkaria.

The spokesperson for Gesto por la Paz was much more skeptical, towards the “advance” of Elkarri’s proposal for a Peace Conference in the Basque Region next fall. Jesús Herrero began from the base that “in the Basque Region there is still a problem of violence and it can only be solved by the people who commit it,” clearly pointing at ETA. “When ETA kills, it’s their responsibility and no one else’s,” he said. Herrero highlighted the need to “liberate policy from the contamination of violence” and spoke out against “violence of persecution, that still affects thousands of Basque inhabitants including politicians, judges and journalists”, although he announced the signing of an agreement with Elkarri in order to, indeed, tackle this problem. The representative from Gesto por la Paz said “we must educate for peace, a measure that has received little effort” but, just like the Elkarri spokesperson, he said he was against the dispersion of Basque prisoners throughout Spanish prisons, tortures, the refusal of medical treatment for sick offenders and in favor of consensus through dialogue between political forces as a fundamental base.

Although the word “truce” came up repeatedly this evening in the auditorium, none of the speakers went so far as to predict that ETA would announce a ceasefire although Jonan Fernández had the intuition that “ETA is involved in an internal debate that should come to fruition by the end of this year” furthermore he said “if someone shows that there are political paths to solve the conflict, maybe the terrorists will question the use of violence.” Herrero recalled that, “many people’s hope isn’t a truce but a definitive end of the violence.”