( By Natalie Kemp)
The Basque terrorist group ETA, which over 43 years has been responsible for 829 killings in Spain and France, announced on Thursday that it has decided to put an end to its violent struggle and called on the governments of both countries to initiate a dialogue that would lead to a peaceful political solution for a Basque independent state.
In a video statement published online by the pro-independence newspapers Gara and Berria, ETA said that it has taken "a clear, firm and definite commitment" to "end the armed confrontation."
The move comes just four days after an international peace conference held in San Sebastián, where the Basque nationalist parties and the region’s Socialist group were joined by six international mediators: former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan; former Irish premier, Bertie Ahern; Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams; Pierre Joxe of France, Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway; and Jonathan Powell of Britain.
The Spanish central Government and the conservative opposition party, Partido Popular, refused to attend and practically ignored the conference, declaring that there will be no negotiation or concessions until the terrorist group has announced its dissolution and given up its arms for good.
Meanwhile the radical pro-independence groups who took part in the conference showed their satisfaction at the conclusions reached by the international negotiators. As well as calling for an end to the violence these recommend that Spain and France agree to talk to ETA as soon as it makes a definitive declaration of the “cessation of all armed action”.
Addressing the nation, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero welcomed the announcement, but said that the victims and violence can never be forgotten.
"Ours will be a democracy without terrorism but never without memory," Zapatero said.
The ceasefire announcement is seen as a victory for Zapatero's outgoing Socialist government, which failed at behind-the-scenes negotiations with ETA after it called a ceasefire in 2006. Zapatero broke off the talks when ETA set off a bomb at Madrid's Barajas Airport killing two Ecuatorian nationals.
Since then, ETA has been dealt a series of blows by the governments of Spain and France, being four of its leaders arrested between 2008 and 2009.
Popular Party (PP) leader Mariano Rajoy called the announcement "good news" because it signifies that violence has disappeared from the lives of Spaniards.
It is a day to celebrate democracy's great victory," Rubalcaba said, calling on all the parties to unite and work together for peace in the Basque Country.
He also gave thanks to French President Nicolas Sarkozy for cooperating in the fight against terrorism.
Despite Rajoy's position, the initial PP reaction was not as positive. Ignacio Cosidó, the PP spokesman for interior affairs, said that the ETA announcement "wasn't worth anything" because the Basque terrorists have not said whether they will turn in their weapons.
In the Basque Country, Basque National Party leader Iñigo Urkullu said that the ETA ceasefire announcement was "the only news that we had been waiting for."
"At last we are going to be able to turn the page and wake up each morning without being frightened," he told reporters. Referring to the victims, he said: "The Basque Country has crushed violence. The Basque Country doesn't owe anything to ETA."
Answer the following questions using your own words:
1.What did the Basque terrorist group ETA announce on Thursday?
2. what does Zapatero mean when he says: "Ours will be a democracy without terrorism but never without memory" ?
3. Why did the Basque National Party leader say when he learnt about ETA announcement?
True or false? Justify your answers:
1. The Spanish central Government and the conservative opposition party attended the conference held in San Sebastián .
2. Negotiations with ETA got broken because four of its military leaders were arrested.
3. All the politicians have the same positive attitude towards ETA decision of abandoning its armed activity.
What's your opinion about ETA ceasefire announcement ?