The Basque separatist group ETA has declared an end to its 43-year bloody campaign for an indepedent homeland in Europe.
Three ETA members wearing black berets and white hoods that covered their faces made the declaration in a video posted online Thursday. They called on the Spanish and French governments to open talks with the aim of resolving the conflict.
Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero welcomed the announcement, calling it an important step, but did not say if his government will speak with the group.
The United States reacted with caution, saying it is supportive of Spain’s effort to combat the terrorism of ETA. A spokesman for the State Department, Mark Toner, said he cannot comment on the validity or the seriousness of the videotaped statement. He said the United States will work closely with the Spanish government regarding the issue.
ETA declared a unilateral cease-fire in January, but it was rejected by Spain’s government because the separatist group made no pledge to lay down its arms and disband.
Spain, the United States and the European Union all regard ETA as a terrorist group.
Earlier this week, at a peace conference in the Basque city of San Sebastian, former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan and other international negotiators urged ETA to make a public declaration to renounce violence and cease all armed action.
ETA has killed at least 829 people in its bid to establish an independent homeland in the Basque regions of northern Spain and southwestern France.