Eta announced a unilateral ceasefire on September 5 [AFP-File pic]

Eta, the Basque separatist group, has said it is willing to declare a permanent, verifiable ceasefire in a bid to settle its long-running conflict with the Spanish government.

The armed group did not specify under what conditions it would allow observers to oversee the destruction of its stockpile of weapons, the only absolute way of guaranteeing a cessation of violence, but hinted it was prepared to go beyond a mere declaration of a ceasefire.

In an interview published in the Basque newspaper Gara on Sunday, two Eta members said that the group was prepared to abide by the Brussels Declaration, a document issued in March by a group including four Nobel peace laureates.

The Brussels document calls for impartial verification of any ceasefire adopted by Eta.

The interview quoted Eta members as saying that "Eta is willing to take that step, and also to go further, if the conditions for such moves are created."

Spain rejected a unilateral ceasefire by Eta on September 5, saying that it was still waiting for the group to renounce all violence. 

El Mundo, a Spanish newspaper, reported on Sunday that a government source has also rejected the latest announcement.

The publication quoted the source, who wished to remain anonymous, as saying: "Statements and interviews are a waste of time, the only thing we're waiting for is a final end to violence."

'Buying time'

Three weeks ago, Eta announced its 11th ceasefire in its 40-year violent campaign for an independent homeland, but it did not mention the word permanent nor did it say it would be prepared to destroy its stockpile of arms.

On Saturday, Eta came under pressure from Batasuna, its political wing, to show its willingness to permanently renounce violence.

Batasuna joined with several other pro-independence parties to sign an agreement on peace initiatives in the Basque region, and urged Eta to halt its campaign of violence.

Eta has also been pressed for a change in strategy by some members currently serving prison terms for violent acts.

Spain's government has repeatedly said progress can be made only when Eta renounces violence for good.

Madrid has rejected the latest ceasefire announcements as a gambit by Eta to buy time, regroup and rearm.

The last deadly attack by Eta, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Spain, the European Union and the US, was a July 2009 car bomb that killed two policemen in the island of Mallorca.

Source: Agencies