Catalonian president suspends independence declaration but says region has won right to independence

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Catalan President To Make Speech To Regional Parliament
Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont spoke to the Catalonian parliament (Source: Getty)

Catalonian president Carles Puigdemont tonight called for the region to follow the "people's will" for the region to become an independent state, but suspended a declaration of independence.

Puigdemont told the regional parliament in Barcelona he wished to seek a dialogue with the Spanish state, averting a showdown with the government, according to the BBC's translation.

He said: "At this historical moment as the president of Catalonia, I want to follow people's will for Catalonia to become an independent state."

Catalan lawmakers have signed a document described as a declaration of independence but have delayed its implementation.

However, the suspension of a declaration of independence, which otherwise could have seen Puigdemont arrested, may allow the regional government to negotiate with the Spanish government.

Read more: "Make or break" declaration for Catalan independence expected today

The statement leaves the region "in limbo", said Claus Vistesen, chief Eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. "This middle-of-the-road statement was the only viable path for Mr Puidgemont, who is caught between pro-independence hardliners in his own parliament and the prospect of a calamitous escalation of the conflict with Madrid."

Puigdemont said he accepts "the mandate that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic".

The vote on 1 October has "changed the situation", he said, but he added he wanted to "de-escalate" the situation. The Catalonian government will seek international mediation in the dispute.

Spain has been suffering a constitutional crisis for over a week after the independence referendum in Catalonia was suppressed by Spanish police. Hundreds of people were injured as police forcibly tried to prevent them from voting.

Read more: Firms eye the exit from Catalonia as it mulls declaration of independence

The results of the referendum showed 90 per cent of the 2.3m people who voted backed independence, but turnout was only 43 per cent as the Spanish government declared the vote to be illegal. The government decision was backed by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

Major businesses have moved their headquarters out of Barcelona, the regional capital, since the referendum, fearing the effects of a unilateral declaration of independence, which was meant to have been made within 48 hours of the vote's result, according to the Catalonian law under which the referendum was held.

Puigdemont tonight compared the Catalonian referendum to the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, asking why it was possible to carry out a vote in the UK but not in Spain.

Read more: Spanish stocks fall and the euro slips after independence vote in Catalonia

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