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The UN chooses a negotiator with ETA to mediate in the war


Martin Griffiths, who met with Josu Ternera and several envoys from the Zapatero government, has been appointed as liaison by Guterres

The newly appointed United Nations (UN) negotiator to seek a ceasefire in Ukraine is Martin Griffiths, who has already played a key role as mediator between ETA and the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Currently stationed in Kabul, within the UN mission in the country, he has been requested by the president of this organization, António Guterres, to seek a link between Moscow and kyiv. In the hope that he can meet with both parties, his mission will consist, according to Guterres, of achieving a ceasefire that facilitates the sending of humanitarian aid and initiating talks to obtain a peace agreement.

Martin Griffiths’ relationship with Spain began in 2004, when he worked for the Henri Dunant Center, a non-governmental organization specializing in mediating in all kinds of conflicts. The association, based in Geneva (Switzerland), had discreetly shown its interest in intervening in contacts to put an end to ETA terrorism. Some of his experts worked for the British and American governments on ending the violence in Northern Ireland.

They had established a certain relationship with the gang through William Douglas, the anthropologist who created the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Reno. But Griffiths informed his North American counterparts that he did not see the contacts as viable and began the negotiations on his own behalf. The performance of the Henri Dunant was sporadic during the mandate of José María Aznar. But, after Zapatero’s electoral victory, his efforts multiplied. The Basque socialist leader Jesús Eguiguren and members of ETA had previously held exploratory meetings.

The value of empathy

The involvement of the Henri Dunant Center provided a neutral base on which to conduct negotiations. The process was not interrupted even when the gang committed the attack on the T-4 of the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas airport, in December 2006, and murdered the Ecuadorians Carlos Alonso Palate and Diego Armando Estacio. Contacts were maintained, but the failure of the Loyola political table made ETA return to arms. Among the attacks he carried out are the murder in Mondragón of the socialist Isaías Carrasco, the death of the civil guards Carlos Saénz and Diego Salvá and, in France, the shooting that cost the life of the gendarme Serge Nerin. The weapons did not fall silent until October 20, 2011.

The minutes of the meetings between the Spanish Government and ETA remained in the possession of Henri Dunant and Griffiths resigned from his position as executive director after it was discovered that the organization’s accountant had defrauded more than one million euros from the group’s accounts. mediation. In a statement in 2020, Griffiths defined himself as a mediator, “not a negotiator”, and valued empathy when playing his role in places of conflict. The Briton was referring to his experience with ETA and claimed to have met Basque terrorist leaders – he did not name names, although the ones who participated in the meetings for the longest time were José Antonio Urrutikoetxea, Josu Ternera – from whom he had learned to try to understand what their day to day.

Griffiths later began working for the UN on issues related to the wars in Yemen and Syria. In 2021, Guterres appointed him Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Coordinator for Emergency Relief.

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