- Basque separatists - ETA - Spain
ETA says it is ready to move forward 'on path of political change'
The Basque armed separatist movement ETA, considered a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US, has said it is ready to move forward "on the path of political change". But the group stopped short of renouncing violence, as demanded by Spain.
AFP - The Basque armed separatist movement ETA said Sunday it is ready to move forward on the path of political change, but it stopped short of renouncing violence as demanded by the Spanish government.
"ETA ... makes known its readiness to take the necessary steps on the path of political change, in its corresponding space," said an extract from the statement published by the Gara daily, translated from Basque into Spanish.
In February a number of prominent separatists close to the banned Batasuna party called for the Basque question to be resolved through a democratic process and without violence, although they did not explicitly criticise ETA.
The former spokesman of Batasuna, ETA's political wing, Arnaldo Otegi said earlier this month that the group would soon give up violence or be defeated. But Sunday's statement made no explicit reference to a laying down of arms.
ETA expressed its "will to resolve the conflict" while at the same time reaffirming "its engagement with the Basque country" and its determination to "struggle staunchly for the Basque country."
"We will not stop before reaching freedom," the statement said.
ETA, considered a terrorist organisation by both the European Union and the United States, is held responsible for 829 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.
The killing of a French police officer in a shootout near Paris last week has been blamed on ETA although there has been no claim of responsibility from the group itself.
The group announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 but months later reversed course and in December 2006 set off a bomb at a car park at Madrid's international airport.
After formally calling off the ceasefire and peace talks in June 2007, the Spanish government redoubled its efforts against ETA, and the arrests over the past three years of its leaders is believed to have severely dented its operations.