Spain's ETA sees 'new era' for Basque region
Spain's armed separatist movement ETA said Sunday a "new era" has opened for the Basque region but the road to independence will be "long and hard."
"In recent months there has been an opening, we are opening, a new era," it said in a statement published by separatist Basque newspaper Gara on the occasion of the Basque Fatherland Day.
Last January 10, ETA announced a permanent, verifiable ceasefire after more than 40 years of bloodshed. But Spain's government rejected the offer, demanding the group go further and disband entirely.
Spain's top court last month rejected an application by a new Basque pro-independence group, Sortu, to form a political party so that it can stand in local elections on May 22.
"At the root of the steps that have been taken is the challenge to go from having the door of freedom open to crossing it," ETA said Sunday.
It called for a "shift from the current oppressive situation to a democratic state based on the territoriality of the Basque nation and the right to decide."
"Independence, the creation of a Basque state, is the only option to achieve complete freedom." it said, but warned "the road will be difficult, long and hard."
It was the fourth ETA statement this year.
On April 16 the group insisted it had a "clear commitment" to overcome the armed conflict but denied that its ceasefire announcement was a sign of weakness.
The organisation concluded it statement on Sunday by paying tribute to recently released ETA prisoners who it said were "Basque fighters who have been an example for different generations."
It did not elaborate. But ETA member Antonio Troitino was freed on April 13 after 24 years in prison for killing 22 people.
However, a Spanish court last Wednesday reversed the decision and ordered his re-arrest, although he is still at large.
The ETA statement made no reference to the recent arrests of several of its members in France and Spain or the seizure of the largest ever cache of ETA explosives in Spain.
ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.
The group announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006, but nine months later it set off a bomb in the car park of Madrid's airport, killing two men.
© 2011 AFP