The Basque militant group ETA called an end to a 43-year violent campaign for independence today and said it now wants talks with Spain and France—a groundbreaking move that could pave the way for ending Europe's last armed militancy. ETA had already declared a cease-fire last year, but up to now had not renounced armed struggle as a tool for achieving an independent Basque state, a key demand by the Spanish government. The announcement came just three days after several international figures, including Kofi Annan and Ireland's Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, attended a conference on ETA in the Basque city of San Sebastian and called on the group to end the violence.
"ETA has decided on the definitive end of its armed struggle," the group said in the statement. "ETA calls upon the Spanish and French governments to open a process of a direct dialogue." ETA, which has killed 829 people in bombings and shootings since the late 1960s, is classified as a terrorist organization by Spain, the European Union, and the US. Its first killing was in 1968. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero hailed the news as a victory for Spanish democracy. In a brief appearance before reporters, however, he made no mention of prospects for dialogue with ETA.