English translation and transcription by Darrin Wood

The presentation of the International Conference for promoting the resolution of the conflict in the Basque Country took place at the Peace House in Donostia-San Sebastian, which will be celebrated on October 17th in Donostia-San Sebastian and is being promoted by diverse international and local entities. Specifically:

- Berghof Foundation
- Conciliation Resources
-The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation
Grupo Internacional de Contacto (País Vasco)

The following took part in the presentation of the Conference, Paul Rios, the Coordinator General of Lokarri; Pierre Hazan, a member of the International Contact Group; and Jonathan Powell, the former Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Below we offer you the complete text of the speeches given by Paul Rios, Pierre Hazan and Jonathan Powell

Paul Rios:

Before beginning I would like to introduce the people who are accompanying us in this presentation. Katrine Tantla of the Berghof Foundation and Kristian Herbozheilmer from Conciliation Resources are here. The first members of the Support Group are here: Txaro Arteaga, Miguel Lazpiur and Vicente Zaragueta, while Kotte Ezenarro could not be with us today.

As far as the interventions go, once I finish, Pierre Hazan, a member of the International Contact Group, will speak. After him, Jonathan Powell will intervene.

It is an honor for me to present the International Conference for the promotion of resolving the conflict in the Basque Country which will develop throughout the week and which will present their conclusions and contributions this coming Monday, October 17th, in Donostia-San Sebastian. The sponsors of this initiative are 6 entities, foundations, and groups who have in common a dedication to the resolution and transformation of conflicts. Specifically we are made up of The Berghof Foundation, Conflict Resources, The Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, NOREF, the International Contact Group (Basque Country) and Lokarri. Besides representatives of the sponsors, international leaders and personalities will also take part in the Conference.

The objective of the Conference is to share the necessary elements for achieving a new situation of normalization, full political transparency and inclusion based exclusively on democratic means and with the total absence of violence or the threat of its use. With this end in mind, we have conceived the International Conference as a collaborative process of contributions and reflections among social and political figures that will begin today and will culminate on the 17th of this month.

From today forwards, we are extending and invitation to all political parties and labor unions. We hope to count on a wide representation of all of them with the conviction that this International Conference can be an important contribution at this time of opportunities and hope.

Finally, I would like to reiterate my thanks to all of the sponsoring entities. Their participation, implication and collaboration is an honor. What is at stake is the future of our country and knowing that we can count on these entities and such relevant personalities fills us with hope.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.

Pierre Hazan

In March of 2010 the Brussels Declaration was made public in which a call was made to ETA to declare a “permanent and completely verifiable ceasefire”, considering that “such a declaration, properly responded to by the Spanish government, would allow for the advancement of new political and democratic efforts, differences would be resolved and a long-lasting peace achieved.” The Declaration was signed by 21 international leaders, among them various Nobel Prize winners.

Given the impact that the Brussels Declaration had, it was agreed upon to form a smaller group of international experts with a more operative character.

In that way the International Contact Group was formed as a result of consulting different political and social figures in the Basque Country. Immediately afterwards ETA declared a ceasefire, and on February 15th, 2011, the members of the International Contact Group were made known, myself among them.

Since then we have visited the Basque Country on various occasions to maintain meetings with a wide range of political parties, and social and labor figures. Our mandate and objective has been to facilitate the debate around the political normalization of the Basque Country.

We would like to emphasize, as we have done on previous occasions, that all of you, the Basque citizenry, have to find a solution. You have the responsibility and the opportunity. We are here representing the international community that supports the peace process humbly and respectfully, to encourage and to help so that, in a cooperative manner, you can achieve a long-sought political normalization.

The Brussels Declaration represented a first and important milestone in international implication and collaboration for promoting a resolution to the conflict in the Basque Country. We hope and wish that the celebration of the International Conference for promoting the resolution of the conflict in the Basque Country can be an even more significant advance, a new contribution from the international community at this moment where Basque society has regained hope.

Jonathan Powell

Good Morning. I am delighted to be herewith Lokarri and the other organizers of the conference taking place next week. I hope it will make a real contribution to a lasting peace here in this country.

Just to explain who I am and why I am here. I was Tony Blair’s Chief of Staff for 13 years. During that time, for 10 years, from 1997 to 2007, I was the chief British negotiator in Northern Ireland. I spent 10 years, often painful, frustrating, irritating, negotiations that, thank goodness, eventually resulted in a lasting peace in Northern Ireland.

Since leaving government, I’ve been the head of a small NGO called “Intermediate” that works on similar conflicts elsewhere in the world. I spend a good deal of my time looking at conflicts across the whole globe.

I was a pre-Establishment figure from Britain. My grandfather worked for Winston Churchill. My father was a military officer. I didn’t feel very well disposed towards the IRA when I first had to meet them in 1997. They had shot my father through the ear in an ambush in 1940. They put my brother, who worked for Mrs. Thatcher for 8 years, on a death list. And I refused to shake hands with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness the first time that I met them. Something I now regret.

Shortly after that first meeting, I had a telephone call from Martin McGuinness. He asked me to come and meet him in Derry, in Northern Ireland, incognito. Not to tell the security authorities or the police what I was doing.

I got on a plane and I took a taxi to Derry and I stood on a street corner until 2 men with shaved heads came up to me and pushed me into the back of a taxi and then drove me round and round the city for an hour. They pushed me out of the taxi outside of a house in the Bogside. I knocked on the door and there was Martin McGuinness. I spent 3 hours talking with him. I spent the next 10 years, endless hours, talking to people who had been my enemies and my people’s enemies. And it brought home to me the importance and the willingness to deal with your enemies if you are going to get to a lasting settlement. You are not going to do it just by talking with your friends.

It became even clearer to me that if you are going to get to a settlement in somewhere like Northern Ireland, you have to escape from the zero-sum game. It’s all too easy after every negotiation or after every piece of progress for one side to come out claiming that it’s the winner, the other side has lost. If you want a lasting peace, you want to make sure that everyone feels that they are a winner coming out of the negotiation. It’s the only way to ensure that peace succeeds.

It also came home to me very clearly in the Northern Ireland peace process that you can only make real progress in the negotiation when the conditions are right. The Northern Ireland agreement was built on a series of failures. The Sunnydale Agreement of 1973 failed. The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 failed. The Downing Street Declaration of 1993 failed. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was built on those failures. In 1997, a window of opportunity opened to allow peace in Northern Ireland. And I hope a window like that can open here in Spain to allow a lasting agreement.

Of course Spain is not Northern Ireland. The conflict is different. The solution will be different. But I did learn one thing in Northern Ireland above all else, and that is that there is no conflict anywhere in the world that cannot be resolved however long it’s gone on, however bloody, however vicious, however painful. It can be resolved if there is political leadership, if people take risks, if there is patience and determination to get to a lasting settlement.

In Northern Ireland, in Britain we resisted international involvement in the case of Northern Ireland for a very long period. We kept people out of it. But John Major very wisely invited George Mitchell in to become a facilitator in talks. And he played a real role in getting to a settlement in Northern Ireland.

Europe and the rest of the international community care about what happens here. This is the last armed conflict in Europe and it’s time that it came to an end.

The leaders who are coming here next week are not going to tell anyone what to do; it’s not their job to tell other people how to resolve their conflicts. All they will do is share their experiences to tell you how they resolved conflicts in their countries and what they learned from sharing what they learned from those other conflicts, just as we in Northern Ireland learned from what had happened in South Africa before.

So I hope at the conference that we have next week, on next Monday, with leaders who have real experience in ending conflicts can make an important difference here and can contribute in making an opportunity for an irreversible and lasting peace.

Thank you very much.