ETA is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the US [EPA]

The Basque separatist group ETA has declared a permanent ceasefire after more than three decades of fighting for a homeland independent of Spain.

The group announced the truce in a statement published on the website of the Basque-language newspaper Gara on Monday.

"ETA has decided to declare a permanent and general ceasefire which will be verifiable by the international community," the group said.

"This is ETA's firm commitment towards a process to achieve a lasting resolution and towards an end to the armed confrontation.

"It is time to act with historic responsibility. ETA calls upon those governing Spain and France to end all repressive measures and to leave aside for once and for all their position of denial towards the Basque Country," it said.

The group made no mention of disarming or dissolving the organisation, which are key demands of the Spanish government.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Spain's deputy prime minister, rejected the ceasefire, saying it did not go far enough.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Gustavo de Aristegui, the foreign affairs spokesman for Spain's opposition People's Party, said: "This would be the fifth or sixth time that the Basque terrorist organisation ETA has declared some kind of ceasefire.

"They want a political prize in exchange for peace, in exchange for stopping their terrorist activities.

"There is a municipal election coming up, and a provincial election coming up, in Spain on May 22.

"ETA's organisation is trying to be able to run in those elections and this could be very well a trick to try to have the Spanish government, the Spanish state, authorise the entry of their candidates into the race for office for municipalities or for the provincial governments of the three provinces of the Basque country."

Scepticism

Guy Hedgecoe, editor of the news website Qorreo.com in Madrid, told Al Jazeera the announcement is a significant development, but that people in Spain are sceptical.

"We have seen ceasefires before, the most recent was in 2006," he said.

"The reason people might be a little cautious today despite this announcement is that they'll look back to 2006 when ETA announced their ceasefire then.

"They unilaterally ended that one by planting a bomb in Madrid-Barajas airport, which killed two people.

"But seeing the fact that they've said this is permanent and internationally verifiable by outside observers is encouraging."

ETA has been fighting for a separate homeland for Basque-speaking people in northern Spain and southwestern France for more than three decades.

It is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the US. It has killed more than 825 people since the late 1960s.

The group had been pressed for a change in strategy by some members currently serving prison terms for violent acts.

Hedgecoe told Al Jazeera that Monday's announcement was triggered by a great deal of pressure on the group to declare a ceasefire in recent months, including from its own political wing.

"They've been publicly pressurising ETA to move in the direction of a peaceful solution and to end its violent campaign," said Hedgecoe.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies