The armed Basque separatist group ETA has announced a permanent ceasefire, raising hopes in Spain that almost four decades of bombings and shootings may be at an end.ETA said it wanted the truce, due to begin on Friday, to advance its goal for Basques to be recognized as a people. The move could open the way for a peace process with Spain’s Socialist government, which is far more inclined to cede additional powers to the regions than the previous conservative administration. Last May, the government was given permission by parliament to talk to ETA, if the group first laid down its weapons. The armed separatists have killed some 850 people in their fight to carve an independent state out of northern Spain and southwestern France. Lately, they have set off only small bombs which have caused slight damage. No deaths have occured since 2003. Classed as a terrorist group by the EU and the US, ETA has been weakened in recent years as Spanish and French police waged a crackdown that has led to hundreds of arrests. The group’s statement makes two mentions of France being involved in the future of the Basque Country, although Paris has always refused to get involved in any talks with ETA.