Spain’s armed Basque separatist group ETA has expressed its readiness to discuss disbanding with France and Spain if certain conditions are met.
In a statement published on a Basque news site on Saturday, the group said it was ready to “listen to and analyse” proposals from Madrid and Paris.
One outstanding issue was the transfer of Basque prisoners to jails closer to home, the statement, ran on Naiz.info, the website of the Basque newspaper Gara, said.
ETA wanted to discuss “formulas and timetables” to bring home prisoners and Basque political exiles; disarmament and the break-up of its armed structures; and the demobilisation of ETA members.
Until Saturday’s statement, the group had refused to announce its dissolution and disarmament, as demanded by Spain and France.
In its statement ETA said the process it was proposing would allow for “the end of the armed confrontation”.
Gara said it would publish the full statement in its Sunday edition.
Conditions for talks
Officials close to the French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on Saturday there could be no negotiations with ETA before it disarmed.
They said it was up to Spain to lead discussions on the issue of the prisoners.
Last month Vals said France would keep up the fight against ETA as long as it refused to disarm.
The Spanish government has repeatedly ruled out talks with ETA over its prisoners.
It reiterated its position shortly after the arrest in central France last month of Izaskun Lesaka, regarded as one of the movement’s top leaders. Joseba Iturbide, considered to be one of Lesaka’s top lieutenants, was also captured.
ETA has been placed on a list of terrorist organisations by the United States and the European Union and has been blamed for the deaths of 829 people. Its last attack on Spanish soil was in August 2009.
It has persistently called for around 700 Basque prisoners incarcerated in jails across Spain to be transferred back to prisons in the Basque region so they can be closer to their families.
Earlier this month, 15,000 people demonstrated in the southwestern French city of Bayonne to support the prisoners.
Demonstrators — many of them relatives of those locked up — regularly hold similar rallies in Spain’s Basque Country capital Bilbao.
Both Spain and France insist on the complete dismantling of ETA’s arsenal and its unconditional dissolution.
The Basque separatist political movement has become an increasingly powerful political force. Basque nationalist parties secured about two-thirds of the seats in the regional parliament in elections last month.