LONDON – Weakened and on the run, the Basque separatist group ETA said Sunday it was declaring a cease-fire in its armed campaign against the Spanish government and that it was willing to try to achieve its aims through democratic means.
It was the latest truce to be offered by the rebels, whose suspected leader was arrested in February. Officials reacted to the move with skepticism and caution, mindful that the militants had declared such cease-fires in the past and then abruptly broken them.
The new announcement came in a video sent to the BBC and to a Basque-language newspaper.
ETA “took the decision some months ago not to conduct offensive armed actions,” the statement said.
The statement indicated that the group was willing to negotiate terms with Madrid on how to “launch the democratic process.” But the group did not pledge to give up arms and renounce violence permanently, as the Spanish government had demanded.
“It’s absolutely insufficient because it does not take into account what the vast majority of Basque society demands and requires from ETA, which is that it definitively abandon terrorist activity,” said Rodolfo Ares, the interior minister in the Basque regional government.