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Spanish PM meets Catalan president to defuse tensions

AFP  |  Madrid 

Spain's new leader today meets Torra for the first time in a bid to kickstart dialogue after the region's failed attempt at which sparked the country's worst crisis in decades.

Sanchez has been in power for a month after overthrowing his conservative predecessor in a key he won with the help of Catalan separatists.

Sanchez has urged Catalan separatist leaders to "turn the page" after Torra said he wanted another referendum on independence. At the start of this month, six of the nine Catalan leaders held near were transferred to to ease tensions ahead of Monday's talks in

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 in October 2017, they face up to 25 years in jail.

Torra said the aim of the talks was to "find out the Socialists' view on the right of self-determination for Catalans." The government has already rebuffed this with responding that the "right to self-determination does not exist in the constitution".

But a senior told AFP that they would bring this up at Monday's meeting, which starts at 0930 GMT.

"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. 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 per cent 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.

ended direct rule over last month after was

Catalan lawmaker who was recently as Spain's 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 manoeuvre. 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.

"Torra is dogmatic, radical, even more radical than (Carles) Puigdemont." 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.

"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: Sat, July 07 2018. 16:40 IST