Catalonia: Rajoy-Puigdemont: poles apart as talks start

Catalonia President asks for binding referendum

21 April, 12:48

    SPANISH ACTING PM MEETS CATALONIAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT PRESIDENT SPANISH ACTING PM MEETS CATALONIAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT PRESIDENT

    ROME - "Unfortunately it did not go well. There is no inclination to reach a deal between Rajoy and the (Catalan) government," said Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia's government.

    Puigdemont was speaking during a news conference following his first official meeting with Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy in Madrid on Wednesday.

    The Catalan president asked Rajoy to organise a "binding referendum" on independence of the autonomous regions, and the response of the premier, a firm no, came as no surprise.

    Puigdemont described their meeting as "cordial and friendly" but said their respective positions remained poles apart due to the "profound underlying disagreement over the political project of an independent state of Catalonia, in the heart of the EU".

    In another meeting with journalists, Rajoy reaffirmed that he was strongly against independence for Catalonia.

    After welcoming the start of dialogue between Madrid and Barcelona, Rajoy said "we are convinced that Catalonia is part of Spain and that the large majority of Spanish people share this vision, because we want to stay together and we will defend this political and personal position," he said.

    Rajoy confirmed that Puigdemont spoke to him about the binding referendum. He said: "I told him that I do not agree. He maintained his position and I maintained mine".

    The meeting lasted more than two hours. Puigdemont gave Rajoy a copy of the first edition of the second part of Don Quixote, including his journey to Barcelona and discovery of the sea.

    Rajoy greeted the Catalan leader next to the three flags of Spain, Catalonia, and the European Union.

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