- Associated Press - Thursday, October 20, 2011

MADRID (AP) — The Basque militant group ETA issued a statement Thursday saying it is ending its 43-year armed campaign for independence and calling on Spain and France to open talks.

The group made the announcement to the Basque daily Gara, which it regularly uses as a mouthpiece. ETA declared a permanent cease-fire in January but up to now had not renounced armed struggle as a tool for achieving an independent Basque state — a key demand by the Spanish government.

ETA has decided the definitive cease of its armed activity,” the group said in the statement. “ETA calls upon the Spanish and French governments to open a process of a direct dialogue with the aim of addressing the resolution of the consequences of the conflict.”

The statement made no mention of what it intended to do with its weapons or if it was dissolving as a group.

ETA has killed 829 people in bombings and shootings since the late 1960s. It is classified as a terrorist organization by Spain, the European Union and the United States.

The announcement came just three days after several international figures, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Irish Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, attended a conference on ETA in the Basque city of San Sebastian and called on the group to end the violence.

Mr. Adams welcomed ETA’s statement Thursday.

“We called upon ETA to make a public declaration of the definitive cessation of all armed action and to request talks with the governments of Spain and France to address exclusively the consequences of the conflict,” Mr. Adams said.

“I believe that their statement today meets that requirement, and I would urge the governments of Spain and France to welcome it and agree to talks exclusively to deal with the consequences of the conflict,” he said.