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Spanish PM meets Catalan president in bid to defuse tensions

AFP  |  Madrid 

Spain's new leader met with Torra for the first time today, aiming to kickstart dialogue after the region's failed attempt at sparked a political crisis.

The first meeting between a Spanish in more than two years started in around 0930 GMT with a handshake.

Torra, who has said he wants another independence referendum, earlier said his aim was to "find out the Socialists' view on the right of self-determination for Catalans".

However, Sanchez, who has been in power for a month, has urged Catalan separatist leaders to "turn the page". Several government figures have rebuffed the idea of another referendum, with telling the Spanish newspaper yesterday that the country's constitution does not allow for a territory to become independent.

"And no Spanish constitutional government will consider it," Calvo said.

But a senior told AFP that they would bring the fractious issue up in

"Our proposal to resolve this is a referendum on self-determination. If they have a better idea, they can explain that to us," the said.

Before the meeting, Torra tweeted that he was going "to explain to the very serious situation that the Spanish state has created in Catalonia".

"And with the willingness to listen to the solution he proposes," he added.

Sanchez overthrew his conservative predecessor in a key last month that he won with the help of Catalan separatists.

In a bid to ease tensions ahead of the talks, at the start of this month six of the nine Catalan leaders being held near were transferred to

They include former Catalan Oriol Junqueras, and of two pro-independence associations and Raul Romeva, the former Catalan government's

Accused of rebellion along with deposed Catalan leader for their role in the region's proclamation of independence, they face up to 25 years in jail.

Catalonia's separatist government pushed ahead with an independence referendum on October 1 despite it having been ruled unconstitutional by the court and Spain's central government.

The referendum was followed by a unilateral declaration on independence on October 27. At the time, separatist authorities said 92 per cent of the 2.2 million Catalans who cast their ballot -- 43 percent of eligible voters -- opted for independence.

The conservative in power at the time, headed by Mariano Rajoy, responded by sacking the Catalan government, suspending its parliament and imposing direct rule over the wealthy northeastern region.

Madrid ended direct rule over last month after was sworn in. Catalan lawmaker Meritxell Batet, who was recently appointed as Spain's minister for public administration, said the ruling Socialists wanted to amend the constitution to move toward a "federal model".

However, with only 84 deputies in the 350-member house, the Socialists have little room for manouevre.

Amending Spain's constitution requires a two-thirds majority of the of Deputies. Sanchez "will not launch anything that is too complicated for such a minority party", said Fernando Vallespin, a at the "There's no majority in for an amendment of the constitution. The right can block it."

Vallespin said the only possible positive outcome would be if both sides accept to try and reach a compromise that grants a special status within with more power over taxation and other matters.

"Sanchez will push for Catalonia to start abiding by the law again and function as a region within the constitution and Torra will say that's not his intention," Vallespin predicted. "He wants to walk out saying he asked for a referendum."

The is divided between moderates and radicals like the exiled Puigdemont, who view any concession towards Madrid as treason. There are no great expectations from Monday's meeting. No joint press conference was planned, but Torra is expected to speak to the media at the end of the summit.

"Things will not be resolved in one or two or three meetings... they have to continue a dialogue," the senior Catalan said.

Torra himself has asked Sanchez for a second date in September in Barcelona, Catalonia's main city.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, July 09 2018. 17:40 IST