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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ETA Calls for Peace Talks

BILBAO, Spain -- The violent Basque separatist group ETA called Thursday for peace negotiations with Spain and France, warned them not to miss a historic chance for peace and said its "permanent" cease-fire was to go into effect just after midnight Thursday.

"It is time to make important decisions, moving from words to deeds," ETA said in a new statement handed out to Basque newspaper Gara.

The group urged the French and Spanish governments not to thwart the groundbreaking process launched by its decision to lay down arms after nearly four decades of bombings and shootings that have claimed more than 800 lives and made ETA one of Europe's last armed militant groups.

Much of the statement repeated wording contained in Wednesday's statement announcing the permanent cease-fire, a first for a group that has called truces before, only to revert to violence after peace talks failed.

"I have a certain degree of confidence that this might be the definitive one," said Jose Antonio Ardanza, a former president of the Basque region.

This time, ETA is seen as seriously weakened by wave after wave of arrests in recent years and stymied by the Islamic terror bombings of March 11, 2004, in Madrid, which killed 191 people and wounded more than 1,500 and made further ETA killing politically unthinkable.

ETA has not staged a fatal attack since May 2003.