Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has said he is willing to talk with Catalonia's new government after an electoral upset by separatists. Whether he is willing to meet with ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont is less clear.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Friday that he expects a "new era based on dialogue" with Catalonia's new leaders after separatist parties won a parliamentary majority in Thursday's key regional election.
Speaking at a press conference in Madrid, Rajoy said he was willing to speak with the region's new leaders as long as they do not violate the Spanish constitution.
He also ruled out the possibility of holding a new national election.
The results of Thursday's regional vote exposed the divide between the region's citizens concerning the issue of independence. A coalition of secessionist parties won a narrow absolute majority in the Catalan regional parliament during the election. However, the single party with the most seats was the pro-Madrid Citizens party.
Rajoy brushes off Puigdemont's offer to meet
During Friday's press conference, Rajoy sidestepped a question on whether he would be willing to take up an invitation from ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont to meet following the election results.
"The person I should be meeting with is with the one who won the elections, and that is Mrs Arrimadas," Rajoy said, referring to centrist, anti-independence candidate Ines Arrimadas of the pro-Spain Citizens party.
Puigdemont, who is in self-imposed exile in Brussels, offered earlier on Friday to meet with Rajoy outside of Spain to discuss Catalonia's independence crisis. He added that it was time to repair the damage done by Madrid's decision to take direct control of the region.
Puigdemont's government held an independence referendum, despite it having been deemed illegal by Spanish courts. Voters who took part, less than half of those eligible, voted overwhelmingly for independence. However, politicians in Madrid and Barcelona had urged those opposing independence to ignore the ballot altogether.
Madrid stepped in after Catalan lawmakers declared independence, dismissing Puigdemont's government and dissolving parliament using the contentious Article 155 of the country's constitution. Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy later called the snap elections.
rs/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)