Barcelona, Spain — Catalan separatists on Tuesday signed what they called a declaration of independence from Spain to cheers and applause in the regional parliament. The regional leader said he would delay implementing it for several weeks to give dialogue a chance.
Spain, however, called an emergency Cabinet meeting and gave little indication it is willing to talk.
In his highly anticipated speech, regional President Carles Puigdemont said the landslide victory in a Oct. 1 referendum gave his government the grounds to implement its long-held desire to break century-old ties with Spain.
But he proposed that the regional parliament “suspend the effects of the independence declaration to commence a dialogue, not only for reducing tension but for reaching an accord on a solution to go forward with the demands of the Catalan people.”
“We have to listen to the voices that have asked us to give a chance for dialogue with the Spanish state,” Puigdemont said.
That would help reduce political tensions and reach “an accord on a solution to go forward with the demands of the Catalan people,” Puigdemont said.
The central government in Madrid responded that it did not accept the declaration of independence by the separatists and did not consider the referendum or its results to be valid. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said an emergency Cabinet meeting had been called for Wednesday.
The Catalan leader “doesn’t know where he is, where he is going and with whom he wants to go,” Saenz de Santamaria said.
About two dozen tractors flying secessionist flags paraded near parliament and thousands of separatists gathered in the promenade next to Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf ahead of the speech.
A Spanish government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with official policy, told The Associated Press the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy cannot accept validating a Catalan referendum law that was suspended by Spain’s Constitution and called the referendum “fraudulent and illegal.”
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