The armed Basque separatist group ETA has for the first time called directly on France to get involved in planned peace talks with the Spanish government. The organisation, which declared a permanent ceasefire on March 22, made the call in a statement published by pro-separatist newspaper Gara. It said French leaders could no longer be what it called “passive viewers”.Territory claimed by ETA in its bloody four decade campaign for Basque independence goes well beyond the Franco-Spanish border. However the French government has always seen the conflict as strictly a Spanish problem. Spain meanwhile has seized on the violent separatist group’s pledge that it remains committed to the current peace process “until the end”. Deputy prime minister Maria-Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said the government expects that to mean an end to violence in all its forms. “The word ‘end’ is the prelude to peace,” she said. Today’s news adds a fresh twist to a political debate raging in Spain over whether the country’s Socialist government should be holding peace talks with the Basque separatists or not. On Saturday, 200,000 demonstrators gathered in Madrid demanding the government call off the talks, expected this summer.