Basque Separatist Group Hands Over Weapons

After years of negotiations and conflict, the Basque separatist group, ETA, surrendered its arms to French authorities on Saturday. Known as “Disarmament Day,” this is a highly-anticipated event in the history of the struggle between the leftist organization and French forces, marking the next step

The decision by the ETA was undertaken unilaterally, despite many efforts by the Basque National Liberation Movement to broker a deal for greater autonomy. Eight different caches were made public in the southwestern portion of France for seizure by law enforcement, bringing a major reduction in the threat of armed conflict. The weapons were made available by Txetx Etcheverry, an environmentalist acting as a go-between the ETA and authorities. They were then inspected by Raymond Kendall, a former Interpol secretary general and a group of analysts not aligned with either the French or Spanish.

An event to celebrate “Disarmament Day” is being held in Bayonne, a French Basque city, on Saturday. In the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz, the Basque Parliament voted 65 to 9 to ask that the ETA turns the remainder of the weapons over on this day. The parliament operates within Spain as an autonomous region in the northeastern portion of the country.

“Disarmament Day” has been heralded by the French Interior Minister Mathias Fekl as a great step forward to the relations between the Basque National Liberation Movement and the government of France. However, it does not mean that full peace has been attained. Some residents of the Basque Country still want greater autonomy and eventually their own state.

Established in 1959 as a way of promoting the culture of the Basque region, it became a militant wing of the movement in 1968 beginning a string of bombings, kidnappings and assassinations. Over the years, the group has been responsible for the deaths of 368 people with scores more injured. Countries around the world declare the ETA a terrorist organization including the United Kingdom and United States. Spain officially recognized the disarmament as a choice by the organization and nothing was delivered in exchange.

Over 300 individuals that have operated with the ETA are said to be in custody throughout France and Spain. There was a major push to get those prisoners released and amnesty to be granted to any conspirators. However, the agreement was not made. Nonetheless, the ETA stated that armed insurgency would end in 2011. This does not include an end to the cultural movement and the parliament

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