Spanish gov't refuses to make evaluations on ETA disarmament

The group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011 and has not committed any attack in the past five and a half years. But it still falls short of longstanding demands from the Spanish government and from victims' groups.

However, Reuters has reported that the pro-Basque independence environmental group Bizi! told French newspaper Le Monde it is responsible for the handover.

The International Verification Commission, in charge of verifying the process, said in a statement Saturday that the list of caches communicated to them by the Peace Artisans group "was immediately conveyed to the relevant French authorities, who will now secure and collect ETA's arsenal".

"The government will not change its position: terrorists can not expect favourable treatment... much less impunity for their crimes", Spanish Prime Minister Mariono Rajoy said in a statement.

Spain has expressed doubt, though, that ETA has disclosed all of the details about it weapons caches.

120 pistols, thousands of rounds of ammunition, 3 tonnes (3,000kgs) of explosive and thousands of detonators have been recovered so far. It confirmed the mediators, who call themselves "peace artisans", would complete the disarmament Saturday in southern France, as announced earlier. The BBC's Lyse Doucet has said that around 100 Eta members still oppose disarmament.

An event is being planned in the French Basque city of Bayonne this afternoon to mark what celebrants are calling "Disarmament Day".

Many Basque separatists have pushed for convicted members to serve their time closer to their homes, not scattered around Spain and France.

Some Eta members are still fleeing French and Spanish authorities.

While disarmament is a crucial step to ending the Basque conflict, it remains to be seen whether the gradual fade-out on one of the Europe's last standing violent nationalist conflicts can help heal the decades-old social divisions it caused in Spain and its northern Basque region.

ETA's first known victim was a secret police chief in San Sebastian in 1968 and its last a French policemen shot in 2010.

In 1973, ETA shifted the course of Spanish history by assassinating Prime Minister Luis Carrero Blanco, Franco's most likely successor.

"What we are going to try to put on the table is the prisoners' issue, the refugees, the demilitarization of this country", Otegi said Friday according to Spanish news agency Europa Press, referring to ETA jailed militants and those in exile.

France said a move by the Basque separatist group ETA to hand over weapons today was a "major step" and "an undeniably important day".

May it disarm, may it dissolve, may it ask forgiveness and help to clear up the crimes which have not been resolved.

ETA has sought to negotiate its dissolution in exchange for amnesties or improved prison conditions for roughly 350 of its members held in Spain and France, and for current members living under cover, which antiterrorism experts estimate at about 30 people.

  • Leroy Wright