Thursday, September 17, 1998 Published at 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
The Irish connection
Basque separatist marchers urging a Irish style peace process
By Nic Newman
"Northern Ireland - Yes; the Basque Country - Yes too" - was the slogan chanted in towns and cities across the region earlier this year. The Good Friday peace deal signed in Belfast was held up as a model, a road map that could provide hope for the seemingly intractable struggle for Basque independence.
Both movements began their violent struggle in the late 1960s and over the years have used similar tactics; bombings, kidnappings and targeting of security personnel. Both ETA and the IRA have been engaged in a cat and mouse battle with the authorities, their leaders in and out of prison. And in Northern Ireland and Spain there have been allegations of government heavy-handedness and abuse of human rights.
But there are some key differences too with the Spanish government repeatedly warning against over-simplistic comparisons.
As in Northern Ireland, the government will remain cautious in its response to the ceasefire until ETA makes clear the armed struggle is over for good.
The authorities will wish to see the handing in of weapons as an indication that ETA's motives are genuine. Decommisioning is still one of the most divisive issues in Northern Ireland
The issue of prisoners is also likely to be a stumbling block. Many of the leaders of Herri Batasuna (ETA's political wing) remain behind bars. But the early release of those responsible for atrocities will be politically difficult for the government - as it was in Ulster.
Advice from Sinn Fein
Recent events in Northern Ireland have greatly influenced public opinion in Spain. Moderate Basque nationalist parties have repeatedly looked to Northern Ireland and have discussed the issues with politicians involved in the peace process there.