The armed Basque separatist group ETA on Monday consolidated its four-month ceasefire by making it “permanent, general and internationally verifiable.”

In a communiqué published by the Basque newspaper Gara, ETA said it was making a “firm engagement” in favour of “a process of (finding) a definitive solution and with ending the armed confrontation” with Spain.

ETA’s current ceasefire, which it declared on September 5, is its 11th since 1981.

ETA had come under increasing pressure from its political wing Batasuna and related groups to consolidate the truce as a first step towards definitively laying down arms.

Batasuna is hoping that a switch to a purely political strategy in the campaign for Basque independence will persuade Spain to lift a 2003 ban which is preventing it from contesting elections in the Basque region.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s government, however, insists on an unconditional surrender by ETA. The government refuses to discuss what has so far been ETA’s key condition for peace — negotiations on the possibility of Basque independence.

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