Basque separatist group ETA said it has dismantled the "logistical and operational structures" of its armed campaign in a step towards full disarmament, in a declaration published Sunday.
The move is the latest tortuous step towards a potential end to western Europe's last major armed secessionist movement, once feared but now weakened by the arrests of many of its leaders.
In the declaration sent to Basque newspaper Gara, ETA said it had completed "dismantlement of the logistical and operational structures linked to the waging of the armed struggle" and was preparing to seal up its stashes of weapons.
Gara reported online on Saturday that "a technical logistical structure is being created that aims to carry through to completion the sealing of the arms depots" held by ETA.
ETA, which is branded a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, said the move aimed to bring about "a transition from armed confrontation to democratic confrontation".
ETA is blamed for the killing of 829 people in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent homeland in parts of northern Spain and southern France.
In October 2011 it declared a "definitive end" to armed activity and in February this year international monitors released a video of weapons which it said ETA was putting out of use.
But the group has not formally disbanded as the Spanish and French governments demand.
There was no immediate formal response from Spain's government, which refuses to negotiate with ETA.
Madrid has notably refused to budge on one of ETA's most sensitive demands: the return of imprisoned ETA members to the Basque country.
Only about 30 of ETA’s active members are thought to be still at large while hundreds are in prisons scattered around Spain and France.
Meanwhile non-violent leftist Basque nationalist parties have gained political influence and increasing power through regional elections in the region.
Such parties must now "take the leadership of the liberation process", ETA said in its new declaration.
ETA was formed in 1959 during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco by a group of Basque nationalist students.
It carried out its last known deadly attack in 2009, when it killed two police officers by placing a bomb under their car on the Spanish holiday island of Majorca.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-07-20