Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said his people voted for independence from Spain – but that he wants a negotiated solution with Madrid.
As the incredible game of cat and mouse between the Madrid government and the Catalonia devolved government continues, Puigdemont asked the regional parliament in Barcelona to suspend the effect of the referendum so talks could begin, rather than breaking away immediately.
The referendum saw voters backing independence, Catalan officials say, but the vote was declared illegal.
Spain’s government criticised Mr Puigdemont’s latest statement.
“It’s unacceptable to make a tacit declaration of independence to then suspend it in an explicit manner,” a central government spokesman told AFP news agency.
Ahead of the referendum, the Madrid government deemed it illegal and Spain’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling suspending the vote.
The vote resulted in almost 90% of voters backing independence, Catalan officials say. But anti-independence voters largely boycotted the ballot – which had a reported turnout of 43% – and there were several reports of irregularities.
National police were involved in violent scenes as they manhandled voters while implementing the legal ruling banning the referendum.
The Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, has pulled the region back from the brink of an unprecedented showdown with the Spanish government by proposing the suspension of a declaration of independence to allow for negotiations to resolve Spain’s worst political crisis for 40 years.
Mr Puigdemont told the regional parliament on Tuesday evening that the “people’s will” was to break away from Madrid, but he also said he wanted to “de-escalate” the tension around the issue.
He hailed the referendum process and condemned the actions of the Spanish government, but acknowledged that people on all sides were worried about what would happen next.
“We are all part of the same community and we need to go forward together. The only way forward is democracy and peace,” he told deputies.
But he also said Catalonia was being denied the right to self-determination, and paying too much in taxes to the central government in Madrid.