Desmond Tutu praises Eta move to disarmament as ‘brave’

Nobel prizewinner likens Basque challenges to apartheid issue in his native South Africa

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: also called for the release of Arnaldo Otegi, formerly of Eta’s political wing.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: also called for the release of Arnaldo Otegi, formerly of Eta’s political wing.

Fri, Mar 21, 2014, 01:00



Desmond Tutu has praised Eta’s moves towards disarmament and has urged both the terrorist group and the Spanish government to accelerate the peace process in the Basque Country.

Last month Eta, which wants an independent Basque state, declared its willingness to start handing over its arsenal, having formally rejected the use of violence in 2011. As an initial gesture, Eta members presented a small cache of weapons to an International Verification Commission, which confirmed they had been put out of use.

The government and many others were disdainful of the move, pointing out the IVC did not represent the Spanish state and few weapons had been put beyond use.

But Archbishop Tutu described Eta’s gesture as “brave” in a statement issued on Wednesday.

“It is an important confidence-building measure,” he said. “It opens the door to the possibility of lasting peace.”

Archbishop Tutu, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, likened the Basque Country’s challenges to the difficulties his native South Africa faced in overcoming apartheid and before it built a “democratic and inclusive state”. His statement continued: “[For] the Basque people to know lasting peace will require both the Eta and Spanish government to walk through the door. Let this opportunity not be squandered.”


Violent campaign
Eta killed over 800 people in a four-decade campaign. Its ending of armed activity over two years ago followed a period during which Spanish and French security forces had weakened it through dozens of arrests.

The archbishop also called for the release of Arnaldo Otegi, formerly of Eta’s political wing and seen as a key figure in persuading the group to end its use of violence. Otegi was jailed in 2009 for trying to reform the Batasuna party, which was accused of close links to Eta.The Spanish government has refused to liken the Basque situation to Northern Ireland or South Africa, saying there will be no negotiations with Eta.