Expatica news

France: ETA ceasefire ‘victory of democracy’

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated Spain on Friday for the Basque separatist group ETA’s ceasefire, branding it a “victory for democracy over violence”.

Part of the Basque homeland is on southwestern French territory and some of ETA’s most recent murders have been on French soil, while Paris has worked closely with Madrid to defeat the militants.

“The head of state sends his congratulations to Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and, through him, to the political movements and the people of Spain for this victory,” Sarkozy’s office said.

“He pays tribute to the numerous victims of decades of terrorism,” he added. “France will continue to offer unfaltering support to Spain in its efforts to ensure a lasting peace in the Basque country.”

ETA is blamed for the deaths of more than 800 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.

Historically, ETA had used France as a rear-base for attacks on Spanish targets, but in recent years the two European allies have strengthened cross-border police cooperation and cracked down hard on the group.

Several ETA arms cache’s have been uncovered in France, and several of the group’s most senior figures were arrested on French soil.

In March last year a French policeman was killed in a shootout with ETA militants just outside Paris, and in December 2007 two undercover Spanish officers were shot dead in the southwestern French town of Capbreton.

On Thursday, ETA announced a “definitive cessation of its armed activity” on the website of Basque newspaper Gara.