Spanish government and Catalan separatists begin reconciliation talks

The parties will meet every month, alternating between Barcelona and Madrid

Catalan demonstrators wave Catalan separatist flags as they block roads during Catalonia's general strike in Sant Just Desvern, Spain, October 18, 2019 Reuters  
Catalan demonstrators wave Catalan separatist flags as they block roads during Catalonia's general strike in Sant Just Desvern, Spain, October 18, 2019 Reuters  

Separatist leaders from Catalonia have met with the Spanish government the beginning of formal talks aimed at resolving the crisis sparked by the region’s ambitions for independence.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan regional leader Quim Torra met for three hours on Wednesday. Though the talks did not immediately bear fruit, they are viewed favourably by citizens in the Catalan region.

In a statement issued at the conclusion of the first meeting, the parties announced they would meet every month. The talks will alternate between the Spanish capital in Madrid and the seat of the regional government in Barcelona.

The thorny issue of whether Catalonia should be allowed to hold an independence vote stands at the heart of the two governments’ disagreement.

Mr Torra reissued his demands that the north eastern region be permitted to hold a referendum on independence. He also called for the release of nine Catalan leaders currently serving lengthy prison sentences for their role in the region’s 2017 independence attempt.

“We made it clear that these are talks to deal with the political conflict in Catalonia that is based on the issues of self-determination and amnesty [for separatist prisoners], and we still don’t have an answer from the Spanish government,” the Catalan leader said.

Mr Sanchez has said his government will not consider an independence referendum and talks should strive to improve relations between Madrid and Barcelona.

“We are all aware of the differences that separate us, but this is a complex negotiation and we do not expect results in the short term,” Spanish government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero said after Wednesday's talks.

Published: February 27, 2020 01:42 PM

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