The Basque group ETA announced in Spain on Saturday it would put its arsenal of weapons “under seal” and “out of operational use”, in a move towards a historic disarmament by western Europe’s last major violent separatist movement.
In a statement published in the Basque newspaper Gara, dated February 24, ETA confirmed an earlier announcement by international monitors that the group had begun giving up its weapons.
The separatist group said the gesture would create a climate of “security” in the Basque country of northern Spain and clear the way for a solution dealing with “all the consequences of the political conflict”.
ETA appeared to be referring to the imprisonment of its members in French and Spanish prisons. The group has long sought the transfer of these prisoners closer to home as a condition for negotiating its disbandment.
A video of black-masked ETA members presenting a cache of guns and explosives to international monitors on February 21 was shrugged off by the Spanish government that insists the group disband unconditionally without foreign mediation.
Spanish media derided the move as a “farce”, saying the group had vowed to end armed activity in October 2011 and that the cache surrendered was ludicrously small.
ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in a four-decade campaign of shootings and bombings for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.