Spain gives Catalan separatist final call for independence decision

Source:AFP Published: 2017/10/16 23:25:03

Madrid on Monday gave Catalonia's separatist leader three days to "return to legality" after he refused to say whether he would follow through on a threat to declare independence from Spain.

Responding to an initial deadline set by the central government, Carles Puigdemont sent a letter early Monday calling for talks with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy "as soon as possible" amid Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

But he stopped short of giving a definitive "yes or no" as demanded by Madrid after his ambiguous independence speech on October 10, and Spain gave him until Thursday morning to clarify.

Anything less than a full climb-down by Thursday's 10:00 am deadline is likely to prompt moves by Madrid to impose direct control over the semi-autonomous region.

"The government regrets that the president of the Catalan government has decided not to respond to the request made by the government," Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told a news conference.

In Monday's letter addressed to the premier, Puigdemont wrote: "For the next two months, our main objective is to bring you to dialogue."

In response, Rajoy said it was "absolutely necessary" that Catalonia clarify its position," and added, "I hope that in the hours that remain until the second deadline... you reply with all the clarity which citizens demand and the law requires."

EU officials are keeping a close eye on developments amid fears that Catalan independence could put further strain on the bloc as it grapples with Britain's shock decision to leave.

Puigdemont told regional lawmakers last week he was ready for Catalonia to "become an independent state" following a secession referendum on October 1 that went ahead despite a court ban.

But he immediately said he was suspending proceedings to allow time for negotiations with Madrid.

Posted in: EUROPE

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