The armed Basque separatist group ETA is ready to observe a permanent and verifiable ceasefire, two members of the organisation say in an interview.
“ETA is willing to take that step and also to go further if the conditions for it are created,” the unnamed ETA members on Sunday told the pro-independence Basque newspaper Gara, which has often published statements from the group.
The ETA members said a halt in offensive actions announced earlier by the group was long-term, and that the organisation would like to see a dialogue on ending the conflict with discussions involving Basque parties and civic groups.
All sides in the conflict between the Basques and the Spanish government needed to make concessions for any peace process to advance, and ETA reiterated that international mediation would be welcome, the statement said.
The Spanish government rejected ETA’s latest move, the third since the start of September, just as it did the first two by the group that is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the US.
A government source quoted by the website of the daily El Mundo said statements and interviews by ETA were “a waste of time” and that “the only thing we’re waiting for is a final end to violence”.
ETA on Saturday came under pressure from its political wing, Batasuna, to show its willingness to permanently renounce violence.
Batasuna joined with several other pro-independence parties to sign an agreement on peace initiatives in the Basque region, and they urged ETA to halt its campaign of violence.
ETA, blamed for 829 deaths in a campaign of bombings and shootings to secure an independent Basque homeland, has released two declarations in the past month proposing an end to violence and calling for international mediation.
The Spanish government dismissed both declarations as they fell short of its demand for the group to lay down arms permanently.
In a September 5 video declaration, ETA said it had decided several months ago to halt armed offensive actions. But the ceasefire was rejected outright by Madrid for failing to promise a permanent end to the violence.
Then, on September 19, ETA called for international mediation to resolve the Basque question, referring to a group of international mediators who had urged the group to declare a permanent and verifiable ceasefire.
But the call failed to clearly spell out ETA’s willingness to lay down its arms forever, and Spanish officials again said it was insufficient.
ETA announced a “permanent ceasefire” in March 2006 and started tentative peace talks with Madrid, but in December of that year it set off a bomb in a car park at Madrid airport, killing two men, and in June 2007 it formally called off its ceasefire, citing a lack of concessions by the government in peace talks.