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Thursday, September 17, 1998 Published at 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK

World: Europe

Is peace possible?

ETA has been fighting for a total independence of the Basque country

By BBC Correspondent Orla Guerin in the Basque Country:

If ETA is in fact turning its back on violence without a specific time limit it will be a major departure for the organisation.

There have been short-term ceasefires in the past and failed efforts at talks but peace never looked like a real possibility. It is too soon to say if things are any different now.

In television footage supplied exclusively to the BBC, two members of ETA's collective leadership are shown making the ceasefire announcement.

With their identities concealed by dark glasses and thick masks, they promised to lay down their weapons.

This, ETA hopes, will be enough to get them into peace talks.

But the ceasefire announcement makes it clear that ETA has not sworn off violence for ever. In an eight-point communique the organisation stresses that it will be keeping its structures intact and maintaining its supplies.

Focus on government reaction

Now ETA has made its move, the focus is on the conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar. Its response is expected to be cautious.

In the run-up to the announcement a key government minister insisted a ceasefire by ETA would be fake. No-one here expects the government to rush into peace talks.

While time alone can establish how serious the ceasefire is, among key Basque nationalist politicians and peace campaigners there is a conviction that ETA wants dialogue and will maintain the truce to get it.

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17 Sep 98 | Europe
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