The Basque separatist group ETA has announced that it will definitely end its armed campaign of violence against the states of France and Spain after forty years of bombings and killings which have killed more than people.

ETA (which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or Basque Homeland and Freedom) is now calling on the government’s ion Parus and Madrid to respond with a process of direct dialogue.

We face a historic opportunity to obtain a just and democratic solution to the age-old political conflict, ETA said in the statement.

ETA has decided on the definitive cessation of its armed activity. ETA makes a call to the governments of Spain and France to open a process of direct dialogue which has as its aim the resolution of the consequences of the conflict and thus the conclusion of the armed conflict. With this historic declaration, ETA demonstrates its clear, firm and definitive purpose.

The Socialist government in Madrid demanded that Basque’s relinquish their arms before any talks on self-determination could start.

In a brief press conference, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister, hailed ETA’s laying down of arms as a victory for democracy, law and reason and that Spain has the legitimate satisfaction of gaining a victory over terrorism.

Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Spain's former interior minister spoke, said that the next government in Madrid, which will be put in place after November’s general election, will conduct the peace talks with ETA. (Zapatero will not be running for re-election).

However, ETA’s decision to end it campaign of violence was probably inevitable since it was already hurt by a crackdown by Spanish security forces, as well a flurry of arrests of the group’s key members, particularly in France.

Still, France and Spain will likely follow a cautious course since ETA has promised to lay down arms before and broken the vow. In fact, ETA called for a “permanent” ceasefire in 2006, but soon violated it by bombing a parking lot in Madrid’s airport, killing two people.