Spanish PM to Meet Head of Catalan Separatist Government


Spain's prime minister has said he will meet the head of Catalonia's separatist government in early February, although discussion on any independence referendum will be off the table.

The meeting will come ahead of negotiations between Quim Torra's regional government and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez aimed at finding a way out of the political crisis that has rocked Spain since 2017 after a disputed referendum in the northeastern region.

Catalonia's oldest and largest separatist party, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), demanded the talks about the region's place within Spain in exchange for its abstention in a confidence vote earlier this month that saw Sanchez sworn in for another term.

"What we want is that they end with a vote on the part of the Catalan population on an agreement," the socialist leader said Monday of the negotiations, without specifying if this deal could be on a new form of autonomy. 

But he excluded any referendum on Catalan independence, telling public television that any vote would be a "vote on agreement, not on division".

While the agreement between the Socialists and the ERC calls for an "open dialogue of all proposals", experts say any independence referendum would not be legal under the current Spanish constitution. 

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