It has been a historic Thursday after one of the Basque history's most intense weeks in 40 years of violent conflict. The separatist armed organisation Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA, Basque Country and Freedom) made a major -and possibly irreversible- step towards peace. In a statement provided to BBC, New York Times and Basque newspapers Gara and Berria, three masked ETA leaders announced a "definitive cessation to all armed actions" and expressed a "clear, firm and definitive commitment to overcome the armed confrontation".
Such an announcement seemed imminent after a group of international mediators first, and the whole of the Basque pro-independence left later, publicly asked earlier in the week that the armed organisation halted their campaign of violence. The international panel was made up by former Irish Prime Minister Berti Ahern, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and former Secretary-General of the UN Kofi Annan, among others. During a peace conference held on Monday in Donostia (Basque Country), Ahern read a 5-points declaration in which the group asked for the withdrawal of all arms, the quickstart of a process of political dialogue and the engagement of Spain and France in the conflict resolution process.
In the statement, ETA assumed the recommendations made by the mediators -which was defined by the organisation as 'an initiative of major political transcendence'- and asked for "the commitment of the Basque society in the process which now begins" and also called for "violence and repression" to "give way to dialogue and agreement".
After five days in which the diverse actors involved in the conflict seem to have followed a written script, it remains to be seen how Spanish and French governments react to the mediators' call to 'accept' ETA statement and 'commit themselves' to the resolution of the conflict. Especially significant will be the role of Partido Popular (PP, People's Party) which has tried to undermine Monday's so-called peace conference, and whose leader Mariano Rajoy is bound to be elected next Spanish PM on November's Spanish general election.
ETA statement and related news: