Europe

Basque Eta militants 'put some arms beyond use'

  • 21 February 2014
  • From the section Europe

International inspectors say the armed Basque separatist group Eta has put some of its weapons "beyond use".

The International Verification Commission, in the Basque city of Bilbao, says a small part of the Eta arsenal is now under seal.

The Spanish government has refused to negotiate with Eta and it dismissed the disarmament move as "theatrical".

Eta declared an end to its armed campaign in 2011. It has killed more than 800 people in four decades.

Most people in Spain consider Eta to be a terrorist group.

Speaking before Eta's announcement on Friday, Spain's Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said Madrid would not give credibility to a "theatrical exercise".

He said the Spanish state was working towards the dissolution of Eta, and disarmament of Eta did "not need verifiers".

He said it was "not verifiers that defeated Eta, but the Spanish police and Civil Guard".

The six-strong commission, based in Amsterdam, is not recognised by the Spanish government. It consists of former diplomats, politicians and political advisers, led by Ram Manikkalingam.

Mr Fernandez said that Eta was "trying to clean up its image" and that Spanish society should not forget Eta's victims.

There is still no sign that Madrid is ready to open talks with Eta.

Eta video

Eta wants around 500 of its members, who are in prison, to be relocated to jails in the Basque Country.

The BBC has received exclusive video footage, recorded by Eta at a secret location. It shows two masked Eta members, dressed in black, displaying what is believed to be a small part of the group's weapons arsenal.

Two of the international verifiers check an inventory before signing it. They say these guns and explosives have now been put under seal and beyond use and call it a hugely important first step, the BBC's diplomatic correspondent James Robbins reports.

The video was handed to the BBC by an intermediary acting with the approval of the International Verification Commission, which is trying to build on Eta's 2011 pledge to cease all armed activity.

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