ETA calls for talks over "definitive end" with Spain, France

MADRID Sat Nov 24, 2012 3:54pm EST

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MADRID (Reuters) - Basque separatist group ETA said on Saturday it wanted talks with the Spanish and French governments to negotiate a definitive end to military operations and a handover of its arms.

Basque newspaper Naiz published an advance summary of an ETA statement, which said the group wanted talks over the return of ETA prisoners to the northern Basque region, an end to its military structure, and a full disarmament. The paper said the full statement would be published on Sunday.

ETA said in the statement that successful talks over those three areas "would bring about a definitive end of the armed conflict".

Just over a year ago ETA announced an end to a four-decade armed struggle for independence in which more than 800 people were killed, but did not fully end operations, nor turn over its weapons. ETA has broken ceasefires in the past.

Spain's Interior Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment on Saturday.

The government has repeatedly said it would not negotiate with ETA, and has called on the group to disarm and disband.

ETA said in the statement that it would listen to proposals from both the Spanish and French governments over an end to the conflict.

The group has lost support in the Basque Country and been crippled by numerous arrests and discoveries of arms caches in recent years, mostly in Spain and France.

Earlier this month British police arrested a suspected ETA member in Liverpool linked to several murders, while its military head was arrested in France in October.

The statement came four days after discussions were held between Basque political parties, labor unions, the Catholic Church, and French Socialists in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian. After that meeting the groups said an end to ETA was close.

(Reporting by Nigel Davies in Madrid and Arantza Goyoaga in Bilbao; Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Jon Hemming)

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