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What was the strategy that finished off the ETA?

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- The armed separatist group ETA, which fought for Basque regional independence for 43 years in Spain and was listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union, announced on Oct. 20, 2011, that it was abandoning its armed struggle. Underscoring its resolution to cease armed activity, ETA also called on the Spanish and French governments to "open a process of direct dialogue with the aim of addressing the resolution of the consequences of the conflict." The declaration, which was read by three members of the group with white hoods over their heads, underscored over and over again that a new era had begun, and that what was at hand was a historic opportunity to find democratic and fair solutions to political problems.

A press conference held by the Spanish government followed the declaration by the ETA. In light of the historic announcement, the message from the government proclaimed, "The ETA is finished," continuing to say, "Great efforts and democracy displayed over many years brought the ETA to a point of no return, and also brought an end to 43 years of violence and crimes."

Last week, there was another development on this front, when Batasuna, the political wing of the ETA, also announced it was dissolving itself. Batasuna Party spokespersons Maite Goyenetxe and Jean Claude Aguerre explained the new roadmap before them like this: "We will achieve independence and socialism only through political and democratic struggles."

It is quite profound that a Marxist, separatist, nationalist terrorist organization such as the ETA -- not to mention its extensions -- has become a thing of the past.

For the past few days, the Turkish public has experienced a sense of excitement that a similar solution could be achieved with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which resembles the ETA from so many perspectives. Though people are cautious -- a result of the half-finished negotiation processes between the government and the PKK at both Habur and Oslo -- hope is also running through a wide swath of the population (from the government to the main opposition ranks) over the talks between the National Intelligence Organization (MyT) and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Eucalan that began not long ago on the island of ymraly. Even organizations that represent the relatives and loved ones of soldiers martyred in clashes are lining up along the axis of "If this is going to stop the flow of blood, why not try these sorts of initiatives?" Officials who have taken great risks to renew attempts at a solution -- primarily Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoy-an and MyT Undersecretary Hakan Fidan -- have created substantial lines of credit for themselves when it comes to public support for finding a solution. The attack by 100 people on a police station in Hakkari, as well as the executions of three PKK leaders in Paris, show that this is not going to be an easy process.

So how was it that the ETA process in Spain ended so successfully? Keeping in mind that conditions differ from country to country, what sorts of clues and indicators in the ETA process might be useful for the Turkish strategy on the PKK? There are some important points contained in the report "Fight against Terror and the Kurdish Issue" prepared by the Turkish think tank ByLGESAM. The report argues that the ETA examples show that the problem cannot be solved solely through improvements in democratic rights and socioeconomic programs, but that in order to eliminate the armed forces of terrorism, there is a need for long-term security measures and precautions.

With their very reasons for existence threatened, and a growing dependence on ties outside the countries in which they are located, solutions with organizations such as the ETA and the Irish IRA are hard to come by directly. Political extensions of these groups tend to give off the appearance of legitimacy by condemning violence and thereby participating in peace processes. In the example of the ETA, the Batasuna Party and its various extensions refused to condemn violence in the past, which is why they were absolutely outlawed in Spain. This ban was in fact supported by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

From the time that the Franco regime came to an end in 1975, there were steps taken towards democratization in the Basque region of Spain, including the reinstatement of the autonomous status that had been removed by Franco, and permission given for the formation of a regional parliament and police force. At the same time, the Batasuna Party was once again given legal status as a party. Moves to develop regional democratic freedoms, enhance socioeconomic conditions and bring ETA members back into normal society were carried out simultaneously with the ongoing struggle against armed terrorism. In keeping with these approaches, the financial resources feeding the ETA were also narrowed. Until the point when, in 2011, the ETA made the decision to abandoned its armed struggle, Spain never stopped trying to capture and make ineffective the leaders of the organization.

One turning point in the struggle against the ETA from an international perspective was when Spain became an EU member in 1986. With democratic standards in Spain suddenly under the EU guarantee, Spain was able to cooperate more closely with France against the ETA and thus prevent France from being a country where the ETA would take shelter when under pursuit.

God willing, one day Turkey too will be able to declare, "The PKK is finished."

ABDE[pounds sterling]LHAMyT ByLyCy (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Jan 18, 2013
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