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The Basque separatist group ETA announced Wednesday that it would commence a permanent ceasefire this coming Friday. Classified as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, ETA seeks independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwest France.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said a permanent end to hostilities by ETA is a condition for any talks between the organization, blamed for over 800 deaths in four decades of activity, and the government.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the government is reacting with caution but also hope to the Basque separatist group ETA's cease-fire announcement Wednesday.
"The government's position is one of caution and prudence," Zapatero told Parliament. "Any peace process after so many years of horror and terror will be long and difficult." He said that until now, Spain's political parties were joined in pain over ETA violence. "Now I trust we will be joined in hope."
ETA previously declared a full ceasefire in 1998, but rescinded the truce a year later and renewed its bombing campaign.
Spanish and French police subsequently responded with a wave of arrests, which were said to have hit the organization hard. Some analysts said its campaign became virtually untenable after the bomb attacks on Madrid in March 2004, blamed on Islamic extremists, that killed nearly 200 people.
Widespread revulsion at those attacks made deadly violence politically unthinkable for ETA, they said.