Talks on Catalonia Conflict Begin in Switzerland

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According to media reports, representatives of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and the Catalan separatist party Junts began talks in Switzerland on Saturday under strict confidentiality about a settlement to the long-running conflict. This was reported by the Spanish public television channel RTVE and the newspaper “El País”, among others.

The negotiators from both sides arrived in Geneva on Friday, as was shown on television. It was not known whether Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont himself would attend. There was initially no official announcement from either side. Not even the exact location of the meeting was known.

Spain’s acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had agreed to the negotiations to secure the votes of Puigdemont’s Junts party in the parliament in Madrid for his re-election as prime minister just over a fortnight ago. Puigdemont wants Catalonia to secede from Spain, while Sánchez wants to prevent this and defuse the conflict through dialogue and concessions.

Junts insisted that the talks with the PSOE be accompanied by a neutral organisation that would verify possible outcomes and monitor their implementation. Officially, it has so far been kept secret who has taken on this role. RTVE reported that it was the renowned Swiss Henri Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD). This private foundation based in Geneva, which claims to have been discreetly mediating conflicts worldwide for decades, had already overseen the dissolution of the Basque terrorist organisation ETA in Spain and verified it in 2018.

According to media reports, the meeting took place outside of Spain so that Puigdemont, who lives in exile in Belgium, could potentially attend in person. In his home country, he would be arrested immediately for leading an independence referendum in the region in 2017, as the then president of Catalonia.

Sánchez has also promised Junts and the Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) an amnesty for his re-election. However, this still has to be approved by parliament, which could take months.

Spain’s conservative opposition is up in arms against the concessions to the Catalans. Opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo from the conservative People’s Party (PP) has repeatedly warned of a threat to Spain’s unity, democracy and the separation of powers.

Source : SWI