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ETA told Zapatero that Barajas deaths were "an accident"

New book by key negotiator Jesús Eguiguren reveals how 2006 peace process broke down

Shortly after the terrorist attack on Barajas airport's Terminal 4 on December 30, 2006, ETA sent a letter to Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero stating that the two deaths caused by the car bomb in the airport terminal's parking lot had been "an accident." The group also asked Zapatero to reopen peace talks, long-term mediator Jesús Eguiguren reveals in his new book, ETA, las claves de la paz (or, ETA, the keys to peace), which EL PAÍS began serializing on Sunday.

Eguiguren writes that former Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi also contacted the prime minister to offer himself as mediator in an attempt to avoid the breakdown of talks. And despite the government's initial hesitation, talks did resume a few months later, but the Barajas attack had changed things. The Socialist government now demanded that ETA disband. ETA responded by asking for the government's commitment to the creation of a common Basque-Navarre Region, and by the end of May, 2007, contact between mediators and the terrorist group had come to an end.

In his book, Eguiguren, who is leader of the Basque Socialist Party, says that he met a distraught Otegi minutes after the explosion. "He said the attack did not mean the end of the end. As it was still early, the existence of victims was not yet known, and Otegi was hopeful that there were not any. For me, the process was over. I had an overriding feeling that [...] the road map had been torn up."

The Barajas attack came a day after Zapatero's 2006 end-of-year address, in which he talked of his hopes that the peace process would bring results the following year. The Socialist leader's credibility was seriously damaged as many wondered how he had so badly misjudged the situation.