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World

AFP
October 12, 2017

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Catalan leader given five days to clarify independence stance

Catalan leader given five days to clarify independence stance

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday gave Catalonia’s separatist leader five days to clarify his position on whether or not he was declaring independence, a government source said.

The source said that if Carles Puigdemont confirmed his region had split from Spain, the central government would give him an additional five days, to October 19, to reconsider, before suspending Catalan autonomy.

Rajoy, who has refused to rule out invoking article 155 of the Spanish constitution to take control of Catalonia, was quick to seize on the ambiguity of Puigdemont’s position, accusing him of deliberately sowing confusion.

The Spanish prime minister also rejected calls for external mediation between the two governments, insisting the Catalan question remained a domestic matter.

“The cabinet has agreed this morning to formally require the Catalan government to confirm whether it has declared independence after the deliberate confusion created over whether it has come into effect,” he said in a television address on Wednesday. “This request, which comes before any of the measures that the government could adopt under article 155 of our constitution, is meant to offer our citizens the clarity and security that such an important issue requires.” Rajoy said the ball was now firmly back in Puigdemont’s court.

“The Catalan president’s answer to this questions will inform what happens over the next few days,” he said. “If Mr Puigdemont demonstrates a willingness to respect the law and re-establish institutional normality, we could bring a close to a period of instability, tension and the breakdown of co-existence.

“That is what everyone wants and expects; it’s what they’ve been demanding. We must put an urgent end to the situation in Catalonia. There must be a return to normality and calm as swiftly as possible.”

Speaking later , Pedro Sánchez, the leader of Spain’s socialist party (PSOE), urged Puigdemont to “be black-and-white” about whether independence had been declared but offered a possible way out of the crisis.

If independence had been declared, said Sánchez, then the PSOE would back the actions of the Spanish government. But he also said that he and Rajoy had agreed that there should be a commission to examine the possibility of changing the way the country’s autonomous regions are governed through constitutional reform.

The idea, Sánchez added, was to find a formula to “allow for Catalonia to remain a part of Spain”. While talks on the matter will not begin for six months – meaning there is still ample scope to apply 155 – the move could go some way to showing that negotiations are possible if Puigdemont backs away from independence. It also shows that Rajoy and Sánchez are increasingly united in the face of the secessionist threat.

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