[Sinn Fein]

25th January 2002

Maskey to travel to Basque Country for launch of new peace proposals

Sinn Fein MLA Alex Maskey will travel to the Basque Country on Saturday 26th of January to attend the launch of Batasuna's new peace proposals  `A scenario for peace in the Basque Country'.

Batasuna have invited Sinn Fein to attend the launch to explain the conflict resolution process in which Sinn Fein is involved, the evolution of the process and whether aspects of the Irish peace process can be used to aid a similar process in the Basque Country. Speaking in advance of his visit Mr Maskey said:

'' In recent years, in areas of the world with long running conflicts, we have seen important political developments come about through the use of negotiation and dialogue. The end of apartheid and the beginning of democracy in South Africa arose following decades of hostility and war.

``While there are many differences between the various conflicts that exist around the world there are a number of common elements available that can help achieve peaceful resolutions.

``In the first instance successful peace processes require dialogue and negotiation based on inclusion and equality. Participants must approach such processes seeking an inclusive agreement. And finally, the international community can play a crucial role in encouraging, sustaining and facilitating a conflict resolution process.

''All of us share a responsibility to address conflict and injustice and in particular Irish republicans have sought to share our experience of conflict resolution and the lessons which we have learned with others, just as we learned much from the ANC in South Africa.

''We have no wish to involve ourselves nor do we seek to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations.  Rather as a people with a clear internationalist perspective we have sought to learn from other political processes and to outline the value of our peace strategy.

''Ireland may be a small country, but we have a very special role to play in international affairs. We have the potential to use the goodwill and respect enjoyed by the Irish nation throughout the world to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts ie: disarmament, protection of the environment and the fair distribution of the worlds resources.

'' I welcome the initiative taken by Batasuna in launching these new peace proposals. I believe that the opportunity now exists to build a real and inclusive peace process for the Basque Country.  I hope that the Basque parties and the Spanish and French governments respond positively to these proposals.

``The international community also have a important role to play in this process by exercising good will and influence and by actively seeking and encouraging dialogue and agreement. ``ENDS

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