Madrid scorns Catalan leader's independence statement
A pro-independence crowd gathered in Barcelona to hear
Carles Puigdemont's address
The Spanish government has rejected a statement of
independence signed by Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and dismissed
calls for mediation.
Spain's deputy prime minister described Mr Puigdemont
as someone "who does not know where he is, where he's going".
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is due to hold an
emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the government's next steps.
Mr Puigdemont signed a declaration of independence on
Tuesday, but halted implementation to allow negotiations.
There had been speculation that the Catalan president
might declare independence and put the move into effect, plunging Spain
into an even deeper political crisis.
Spain has been in turmoil since a disputed referendum
on 1 October which was declared invalid by the country's Constitutional
Addressing the Catalan parliament in Barcelona, Mr
Puigdemont said the autonomous region had won the right to be
independent as a result of the vote.
"We call on international states and organisations to
recognise the Catalan republic as an independent and sovereign state,"
He said the "people's will" was to break away from
Madrid, but he also said he wanted to "de-escalate" the tension around
"I propose suspending the effects of the declaration
of independence to undertake talks in the coming weeks without which it
is not possible to reach an agreed solution," Mr Puigdemont told MPs.
He and other Catalan leaders then signed the
declaration of independence. It is not clear if the declaration has any
Crowds of independence supporters in Barcelona cheered
Mr Puigdemont's initial remarks, but many expressed disappointment as he
clarified his stance.
In Madrid, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz
de Santamaria rejected Mr Puigdemont's proposal for talks through an
"Neither Mr Puigdemont nor anybody else can claim...
to impose mediation," she said.
"After having come so far, and taken Catalonia to the
greatest level of tension in its history, President Puigdemont has now
subjected his autonomous region to its greatest level of uncertainty.
"The speech the president... gave today is that of a
person who does not know where he is, where he's going, nor who he wants
to go there with."
Spain's Justice Minister Rafael Catala reiterated the
government's position that the referendum was illegal and its results
Almost 90% of voters backed independence with a
turnout of 43%, Catalan officials say. Anti-independence voters largely
boycotted the ballot and there were several reports of irregularities.
National police were involved in violent scenes as
they tried to stop the vote taking place.
Ahead of Mr Puigdemont's address on Tuesday,
influential figures including Barcelona's mayor Ada Colau and European
Council President Donald Tusk had urged him to step back from declaring
Catalonia is is one of Spain's wealthiest regions, but
a stream of companies has announced plans to move head offices out of
Catalonia in response to the crisis.
The European Union has made clear that should
Catalonia split from Spain, the region would cease to be part of the EU.
Courtesy: BBC News
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