Spain could be on the verge on an historic peace process with the declaration from Basque separatists ETA of a permanent ceasefire.
But the Spanish prime minister while hopeful is cautious after nearly four decades of violence.
The truce, which starts tonight at midnight, could be seen as a partial victory for Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who offered talks to ETA last May in return for an end to violence.
“As I have said before, we must be prudent and cautious,” he said. “I repeat that any peace process after so many years of horror and terror will be long and difficult.
“That is why this process needs everyone’s participation. We must all play our part. I hope that my government can count on the support of all political parties. At this time our thoughts also go out to the victims of terrorism and to those who risk their lives to protect us.”
ETA, however, has stopped short of giving up its arms – Zapatero’s condition for talks.
The group – classed as terrorists by the EU and US – said it hoped the truce would start a democratic process in the Basque region.
Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy said that Madrid should not negotiate or pay a political price to a terrorist organisation because then terrorism would become a political tool and the terrorists would have won the battle.”