Published: Sun, June 03, 2018
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Catalan leader calls for talks with new Spain PM

Catalan leader calls for talks with new Spain PM

Catalan nationalists have regained control of the region after a new government was sworn in.

This will be a major challenge for the new Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Newly elected Catalan regional leader Quim Torra passes a civil guard, as he leaves the Estremera prison where he visited former Catalan cabinet members Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, Joaquim Forn, Josep Rull and Raul Romeva, who are jailed there, pending trial, on charges of sedition, rebellion and misappropriation of funds, in Estremera, Spain May 21, 2018.

Sanchez, a Socialist who has said he wants talks on Catalonia but opposes any independence referendum, was also sworn in on Saturday after parliament ousted conservative Mariano Rajoy over a corruption scandal.

The new Catalan government was sworn in to cheers of "Llibertat!" This would have to be decided during legal proceedings in Spain, they said.

In order to cobble together the support to cast out Rajoy, Sanchez promised to open talks with Torra in order to get the votes he needed from the Catalan pro-secession lawmakers in the national parliament.

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"Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, let's talk, let's address this issue, let's take risks, you and us", he said.

The 46-year-old Sanchez is Spain's seventh prime minister since the return to democracy following the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.

The swearing-in ends months of political limbo in the northeastern region after the independence bid last October caused Spain's biggest political crisis in decades.

Torra was chosen by Puigdemont to be Catalonia's next leader after separatist parties kept their absolute majority in regional elections in December.

An empty chair with a yellow ribbon stood in the chamber to represent Catalan separatists who are in jail over their role in last autumn's independence push and those, like ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled overseas.

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