Madrid: Basque independence fighters ETA have issued a communiqué saying they are ready to sail into "deeper waters" to resolve the conflict, a pro-independence newspaper said on Saturday, nearly two weeks after a unilateral truce was flatly rejected by Spain for failing to renounce violence forever.
"Faced with the stubbornness of France and Spain, ETA has decided again to launch the boat of opportunity for the democratic resolution of the conflict," ETA said according to brief excerpts published by the Basque daily Gara.
The newspaper promised to release the entire statement in its print edition on Sunday.
ETA took the decision "without throwing anchor, ready to navigate in deeper waters," it said.
Gara said the statement indicated an unconditional and unilateral move by ETA, which is held responsible for 829 deaths in its struggling 42-year campaign for independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.
ETA addressed the statement to the international community, the newspaper said.
ETA’s statement thanked and paid respect to the signatories of a March 2010 Brussels declaration, which had called on ETA to declare a "permanent, fully verified ceasefire" and had expressed hope for a resolution if Spain responded.
Signatories included Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and former Irish president Mary Robinson.
ETA`s latest statement said that to overcome the conflict it was necessary to "go further than partial steps" and to make "a complete proposal". It said a definitive resolution should be built on commitments on all sides and be developed through negotiation.
According to Gara, ETA reiterated its call to the international community to take part in the process so as to produce a "permanent, just and democratic" resolution to the conflict, although it accepted that the key to the solution lay in the Basque country.
In a video declaration, ETA on September 05 announced it had decided several months ago to halt "armed offensive actions".
Spain`s government rejected the announcement as totally inadequate and demanded ETA renounce guns and bombs forever in its battle for an independent homeland.
ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006, and shortly afterwards Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero`s Socialist government said it was launching tentative peace talks with the outfit.
But in December 2006 the group set off a bomb at a car park at Madrid`s 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.
Since then, the government has taken a hard line against the group and its political wing, Batasuna, arresting dozens of senior members with strong cooperation from other countries, particularly France.
Only this week, more than 300 police officers detained nine leaders of Ekin, an ETA support group declared illegal by Spain`s National Court in 2007. Three of those detained in the raids overnight Monday were women.
Thousands of people marched in Spain`s Basque region on Saturday in support of those arrested, shouting slogans and carried placards denouncing Spain`s ruling Socialist Party.