Spanish PM gives Catalonia 5 days to clarify independence stance

Spanish PM gives Catalonia 5 days to clarify independence stance

Mariano Rajoy says region's secession bid a 'fairy tale,' as EU countries voice support for Spain's territorial integrity, constitution

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on October 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Javier Soriano)
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on October 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Javier Soriano)

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 also on Wednesday rejected any mediation to resolve the crisis over Catalonia’s independence push.

“There is no mediation possible between democratic law and disobedience, illegality,” he told parliament.

Catalonia’s separatist leaders on Tuesday signed an independence declaration but said they were suspending it in the hope Madrid would negotiate.

Catalan regional government president Carles Puigdemont signs a document concerning the independence of Catalonia at the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona on October 10, 2017. (AFP Photo/Josep Lago)

Rajoy also dismissed Puigdemont’s independence plan as a “fairy tale.”

“It is not peaceful, it is not free, it will not be recognized by Europe and now everyone knows it will have costs,” he added.

He was referring to several big companies which have moved their headquarters outside of Catalonia in recent days.

Puigdemont has repeatedly called for mediation since he pushed ahead on October 1 with an independence referendum in Catalonia that was deemed illegal by Madrid and the Spanish courts.

Earlier on Wednesday he proposed during an interview with CNN that a mediator be named to settle the crisis.

“Maybe, it could help (us) to talk if two people representing the Spanish government and two people representing the Catalan government just simply agree on one thing, for instance, naming a mediator,” he said.

Catalan independence supporters listen to a speech by Catalan president Carles Puigdemon broadcast on a television screen at the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona on October 10, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jorge Guerrero)

Puigdemont announced in the regional parliament Tuesday that he had accepted the mandate for “Catalonia to become an independent state” following the contested referendum.

While Spain plunged deeper into crisis after Rajoy threatened on Wednesday to impose direct rule on Catalonia over the disputed independence referendum, a number of countries and international bodies signaled their backing for Madrid’s stance.

EU: ‘Respect constitution’

The European Union reiterated its call for “full respect of the Spanish constitutional order,” reaffirming its commitment to back Madrid in the crisis.

European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said the commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, trusted Rajoy “and all political forces who are working towards a solution within the framework of the Spanish constitution.”

Germany: ‘Unilateral independence irresponsible’

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) attends a press conference in Berlin on June 27, 2017. (AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said a unilateral declaration of independence in Catalonia would be “irresponsible”.

“Our common European experience shows that Europe’s strength lies in its unity and peace, which has been achieved by European unification,” he said.

Gabriel urged a solution to the crisis through talks “based on the rule of law and within the framework of the Spanish constitution.”

France: ‘No recognition’

France said it will not recognize Catalonia if the regional government makes a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain.

The foreign ministry has said a unilateral declaration “would be illegal and would not be recognized.”

“All solutions to this internal crisis must be found in the framework of the Spanish constitution,” it added.

Italy: ‘Unjustified and dangerous’

Italy has called for dialogue to avoid an “unjustified and dangerous” escalation of the crisis in Catalonia.

“We underline the need to respect the constitutional framework and Spanish laws,” said Paolo Gentiloni, head of the Italian government, in a statement while urging a framework for talks.

Russia: Ensure rights of all

Russia has urged the crisis to be resolved through dialogue “strictly in line with Spanish law.”

The Russian foreign ministry called for the dispute to be solved “in the interest of a united and prosperous Spain” that ensures the rights of all.

Portugal: ‘Responsible dialogue’

Portugal has called for “responsible political dialogue” to resolve the crisis.

“Portugal respects the sovereignty of Spain,” the government said in a statement while emphasizing it wants a solution that preserves the unity of its neighbor.

Cyprus: ‘Violates constitution’

Cyprus has said it does not recognize the unilateral declaration of independence for Catalonia which it describes as a “violation” of the Spanish Constitution.

“Cyprus strongly reaffirms its unwavering support to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Spain,” a statement from the presidency said.

Cyprus itself has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a Greek-backed military coup.

Morocco: ‘Source of instability’

Morocco has called the unilateral push for independence in Catalonia “irresponsible” and says it backs the territorial integrity of Spain.

“The unilateral decision… is a source of instability and division not only in Spain, but throughout Europe,” said a foreign ministry statement.

The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are based on Morocco’s northern coast, forming the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

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