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Catalonia Leader Puigdemont asks to meet PM Rajoy, fails to clarify independence status

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has sought to sidestep a 10 a.m. deadline to clarify whether the region had declared independence from Spain. He asked instead for two months of talks with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Carles Puigdemont’s letter to Mariano Rajoy, due by 10 a.m local time on Monday (0800 UTC/GMT), was made public by local Catalan media.

A response is expected from Madrid imminently.

Puigdemont did not clarify whether he had declared Catalan independence, but asked for two months of negotiations on the issue with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

“In the next two months, our main objective is to invite you to a dialogue,” and allow “international, Spanish and Catalan” mediators to “open a path of negotiation,” the letter to Rajoy said. Puigdemont wrote that his regional government wanted to “suspend” initiating steps towards independence until these talks were completed, saying that this showed his government’s “firm will to find a solution and not confrontation.”

However, the letter did state that Catalonia’s parliament had a “democratic mandate” to declare independence after October 1’s disputed referendum. Puigdemont’s government defied Spanish authorities by staging the vote. Fewer than half of eligible voters participated, but of those who did, roughly 90 percent supported secession.

Pressure on Puigdemont 

Puigdemont had been asked to answer with a simple “yes” or “no” whether he had declared independence, after he made a symbolic independence declaration last Tuesday and suspended it moments later, calling for negotiations with Madrid. He was given until Monday to clarify his position. Had he sought a split, Madrid had threatened to disband his government by Thursday.

Rajoy had previously warned Puigdemont that any ambiguous response would be taken as a confirmation that a declaration of independence had been made, however he was yet to respond to Monday’s letter.

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