Jailed members of the Basque separatist group ETA have acknowledged the suffering caused by a long campaign of violence. They also pledged to continue to abide by a ceasefire, which ETA announced two years ago.
Representatives of the Basque prisoner group EPPK issued a statement via the Spanish regional newspaper Gara in which they acknowledged the pain caused by a campaign of shootings and bombings in which hundreds of people died.
"We recognise, in all sincerity, the suffering and damage caused to all parties," the EPPK statement written in Basque and translated into Spanish by Gara said.
"We take entire responsibility for the consequences of our political activities," the statement added, while stopping short of actually issuing an apology.
The statement also appeared to soften a longstanding demand by the group that a general amnesty be granted to the around 600 ETA members in jails across Spain and France.
The EPPK said it would now be prepared to "study the possibility of a process where our return home takes place in stages, through individual commitments and in a reasonable time".
"We could accept that our return home - our release from jail and as a priority our transfer to the Basque Country - be done through legal channels even if this, for us, implicitly entails the acceptance of our sentence," it added.
There was no immediate sign that either the Spanish or the French governments might be willing to enter talks with ETA, which is considered both by the European Union and the United States to be a terrorist organization.
ETA, which is an acronym that stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom in the Basque language, has been blamed for the deaths of 829 people since 1959 when it launched a campaign of shootings and bombings to back up its demand for an independent homeland in northern Spain and southern France. It renounced its armed struggle in October 2011.
pfd/lw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)