The Spanish government has given Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont another three days to say whether the region has declared independence. Puigdemont had asked for direct talks with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria on Monday rejected Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont's call for direct negotiations and set a fresh deadline of Thursday to drop a bid for independence.
Saenz de Santamaria told reporters in Madrid that the central government had wanted a simple "yes or no" answer from Puigdemont about whether Catalonia had declared a split from Spain by 10 a.m. local time (0800 UTC/GMT) on Monday and he had failed to give one.
"It wasn't very difficult to say 'yes' or 'no,'" Saenz de Santamaria said. "It is not difficult to return to reason in these next three days."
Puigdemont's gambit: talks with Rajoy
In a two-page letter sent ahead of Monday's deadline, Puigdemont didn't clarify whether he had declared independence from Spain. Instead, he asked for two months of negotiations on the issue with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.
"Over the coming two months, our main objective is to appeal to you to 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's "suspension of the political mandate" to declare independence showed his government's "firm intention to find the solution rather than generate 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.
Catalonia's status has been in question since last Tuesday, when Puigdemont issued a symbolic independence declaration — only to suspend it moments later and say he would seek talks with Spain's government.
se/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)