Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spain's Premier Rejects Catalan Mediation Offers

Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont waits to make his opening speech at the parliament in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Puigdemont says he has a mandate to declare independence for the northeastern region, but proposes waiting "a few weeks" in order to facilitate a dialogue.



MADRID (AP) — The Latest on the crisis over Catalonia's independence bid (all times local): 4:45 p.m. Spain's prime minister has rejected offers of mediation in the Catalonia crisis, and called for respect of Spanish law.

Mariano Rajoy, while thankful for the approaches, said that "there is no possible mediation between democratic law and disobedience and unlawfulness." Rajoy made the comments while addressing Spain's parliament a day after Catalan officials signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain.

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said the previous day that he would proceed with the secession but was suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations. Rajoy finished his address to parliament on Wednesday calling for all Spaniards to "put an end to this division and to do it with serenity, prudence and the final goal of recovering coexistence."

4:30 p.m.

Spain's prime minister says that this month's referendum in Catalonia was part of a strategy "to impose independence that few want and is good for nobody."

Mariano Rajoy is addressing parliament a day after Catalan officials, including the regional president, signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain. Rajoy has described the crisis as "one of the most difficult times in our recent history."

Rajoy said that Catalan authorities broke the law by holding the Oct. 1 referendum and incited street protests to give an appearance of legitimacy to the vote. He also said that nobody should be proud of Catalonia's referendum or the image it gave, and that not a single country supports Catalonia's push for secession.

2:40 p.m.

Spanish news reports say the National Court is summoning for further questioning two senior officers of Catalonia's regional police force and the leaders of two pro-independence civic groups in connection with the referendum.

The private news agency Europa Press and other media outlets say the four are to appear Oct. 16 before investigative magistrate Carmen Lamela at the court in Madrid on suspicion of sedition.

The summons could not be immediately confirmed by the court.

The four were released after questioning last Friday but the court said they would be recalled once it reviewed new police evidence relating to the banned Oct. 1 referendum on Catalonia's independence from Spain.

2 p.m.

The European Union's executive body says it remains firmly behind Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in his handling of the contested independence vote in the northern Catalonia region.

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis says that "the Commission is following closely the situation in Spain, and reiterates its earlier call for full respect of the Spanish constitutional order."

He said EU commissioners on Wednesday briefly discussed developments in Spain. Catalonia's separatist authorities have appealed to the Commission to help mediate with Madrid but Rajoy has not sought EU help.

Dombrovskis said: "We are supporting the efforts to overcome division and fragmentation, to ensure unity and respect of the Spanish constitution."

1:50 p.m.

Spain's opposition leader says that the country's two main parties have agreed to renegotiate laws governing autonomy amid Catalonia's independence bid.

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez says that a deal was reached with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to open talks in six months on reforming the constitution that would allow changes to current setup governing Spain's 17 regions, including Catalonia.

Sanchez said that his party wanted the constitutional reform to "allow for Catalonia to remain a part of Spain."

Sanchez says his party is backing Rajoy, who leads the ruling Popular Party, in pursuing clarification from the Catalan regional leader over whether independence for the northeastern prosperous region was declared Tuesday.

Sanchez said that Catalan president Carles Puigdemont needs to put it in "black and white" what his plans are.

1:20 p.m.

A spokeswoman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel says a declaration of independence by Catalonia "would be illegal and would not receive any recognition" from Germany.

Spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer, when asked if Germany would help negotiate between Spain and Catalonia, also told reporters in Berlin on Wednesday the German government considers Catalonia's independence efforts an internal issue for Spain and Germany would not get involved.

Demmer added it's important that Spain's unity be maintained and that the rights of all Spaniards will be guaranteed.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy formally demanded the Catalan leader clarify whether independence has been declared following an announcement Tuesday from the head of the wealthy Catalonia region that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence but was suspending it for several weeks to facilitate negotiations.

12:20 p.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has formally demanded the Catalan leader clarify whether independence has been declared, saying that is needed before he can decide what steps to take.

In a veiled threat, Rajoy said the clarity was required by the constitutional article that would allow Spain to intervene and take control of some or all of Catalonia's regional powers.

Rajoy issued the demand Wednesday following a special Cabinet meeting to respond to an announcement from the head of the wealthy Catalonia region that he was proceeding with a declaration of independence but was suspending it for several weeks to facilitate negotiations.

12 p.m.

A Greek anarchist group has ended a brief, peaceful demonstration at Spain's embassy in Athens to protest against the Spanish police crackdown on Catalonia's independence referendum.

Police say 18 people were detained for questioning after they voluntarily left the embassy building in Athens city center.

No damage was reported during the two-hour protest.

The anarchist group Rubicon said that Wednesday's protest was prompted by the Spanish government's "violence and repression," but it was not in support of Catalan independence.

11:45 a.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is to deliver a statement at noon (1000GMT) Wednesday expected to focus on the response to a Catalan declaration of independence that separatists put on hold while calling for mediation efforts.

Rajoy chaired the closed-doors meeting at the government's headquarters in the Moncloa Palace, on the outskirts of Madrid.

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said late Tuesday that he would proceed with the secession but would suspend it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations. But the government has given little indication it is willing to talk.

10:55 a.m.

Police say a Greek anarchist group is staging a sit-in protest at the Spanish embassy in Athens.

In a posting on a left-wing website, the Rubicon group said Wednesday's protest was held to protest the Spanish police crackdown on the Catalan independence referendum. The group added, however, that it does not support Catalan independence.

The group has staged a series of brief, peaceful invasions at the offices of state institutions, political parties and private corporations to protest policies it disagrees with.

Greek left-wing groups have expressed support for Catalonia's independence drive, holding a peaceful protest at the Spanish embassy last week.

10:30 a.m.

Cyprus has rejected a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia's leader, saying it violates Spain's constitution.

The ethnically divided island nation said Wednesday that it fully backs Spain's territorial integrity and sovereignty and pledged solidarity with the country and its people.

Cyprus said the best way to resolve the crisis is through peaceful dialogue in line with the Spanish constitution.

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday he would proceed with secession from Spain but was suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

Cyprus faces its own problem with breakaway Turkish Cypriots who declared independence in 1983, nine years after the island was split when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Only Turkey recognizes the island's breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

10:25 a.m.

Catalonia's government spokesman says that if the Spanish government decides to intervene over the region's autonomous powers, it will be seen that there is no willingness to talk and Catalonia will be obliged to press ahead with its commitment to independence.

Jordi Turull told Catalunya Radio that Wednesday's events would show if the possibility of dialogue exists for the Spanish government, and "the international community will see."

He said the Catalan government has not changed its plans but wants to talk.

Catalan government leader Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday he would proceed with the secession but would suspend it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

But the Spanish government, which is meeting Wednesday to discuss its response, said the declaration was inadmissible.

One of Spain's options could be to apply Article 155 of the Constitution, which allows the central government to take some or total control of any of its 17 regions if they don't comply with their legal obligations

9:45 a.m.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia would be "irresponsible."

Gabriel said in a written statement Wednesday, "Europe's strength lies in its unity and the peace that was brought by the European unity."

He said that "a solution can only be successful through talks based on the rule of law and within the frame of the Spanish constitution."

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said Tuesday he would proceed with secession from Spain but was suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

The Spanish government is holding an urgent meeting Wednesday to discuss its next steps.

9:15 a.m.

The Spanish government has started an urgent meeting to discuss its next steps to halt the northeastern region of Catalonia from proceeding with a declaration of independence.

Spanish national television showed images of the ministers gathered around a table as the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, got underway.

Wednesday's meeting is taking place after Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said the previous day that he will proceed with the secession but is suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations in what is Spain's most serious political crisis in decades.

Rajoy is to address parliament later Wednesday.

8:45 a.m.

The Spanish government is to hold an urgent meeting to discuss its next steps to halt the northeastern region of Catalonia from proceeding with a declaration of independence.

Wednesday's meeting is taking place after Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said the previous day that he would proceed with the secession but was suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations.

Spain responded by saying the declaration was inadmissible, adding that it was based on an invalid independence referendum.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is to appear before parliament later Wednesday to discuss the referendum and what he plans to do next.

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