Regional premier Carles Puigdemont has pulled back from the brink of a full-blown unilateral declaration of independence for Catalonia last night, requesting a last minute series of negotiations be started to resolve the crisis.
“Thanks to the results of the referendum of 1 October, Catalonia has earned the right to be an independent state,” Mr Puigdemont told the region’s parliament in Barcelona.
“If everybody acts responsibly, this conflict can be resolved calmly. It won’t be us that prevents that from happening.”
Watched by over 1,000 different accredited media outlets, more than 300 foreign – a double all-time record for the Catalan parliament – and by Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy from his official residence in Madrid, Mr Puigdemont said: “We are reaching out in the hope of dialogue.”
“I ask the citizens of Catalonia to continue to express themselves in a civilized, peaceful way, the parties to contribute with their words to lessen the tension and the Spanish government to renounce its repressive tactics,” he added.
However, Mr Puigdemont’s failure to declare full-blown formal independence visibly disappointed his hard-left CUP allies, vital for maintaining his narrow pro-nationalist majority in parliament and who were gunning for an immediate break from Spain.
The parliamentary was delayed by over an hour reportedly as the CUP expressed their dissent to Mr Puigdemont and they remained seated and did not applaud at the end of his speech. Its youth branch later reportedly described the speech as “unacceptable act of traitorship.”
“You can’t suspend a declaration of independence you haven’t made,” the Catalan Socialist Party leader, Miquel Iceta, added after Mr Puigdemont had spoken. “It’s an insult to common sense,” tweeted Catalonia’s Partido Popular party.
Sources have suggested that the lengthy delay in starting the parliamentary session was also due to last-minute pleas for international negotiation. There were unconfirmed reports EU Commission president Jean Claude Juncker was amongst those who had been contacted.
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