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06.48 22 Dec 2017


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Updated: 15.20

Deposed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said he is ready to hold talks with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy anywhere in the EU, other than Spain.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, where he fled into self-imposed exile after his regional government was sacked, Mr Pugidemont insisted he wants to be reinstated as Catalan leader.

And he confirmed he would return to Spain, if he was given guarantees by the government he could take up his position as head of a potential new Catalan government.

It comes after his Together for Catalonia party claimed 34 seats in the regional elections, which Mr Puigdemont said opened a "new era" for the autonomous region.

Mr Rajoy has refused to engage in dialogue with pro-independence leaders until they agree to limit their political goals within Spain's constitution - which bans unilateral secession of any of the country's 17 autonomous regions.

Two other pro-independence parties won a combined 36 seats in the elections on Thursday.

That total gives separatists two more seats than the 68 needed for an absolute majority - ensuring that they retain control of Catalonia's regional government.

Mr Puigdemont was the most voted candidate among separatists, and could be chosen to lead a new pro-independence coalition after negotiations with other parties.

Despite this, unionist party Citizens topped the poll and won 37 seats.

Cataluña went to the polls after its government was dissolved by Madrid, who deemed its declaration of independence in October "illegal".

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont speaks during a media conference in Brussels | Image: Virginia Mayo/AP/Press Association Images

Mr Puigdemont said Thursday's majority by separatist parties was a victory for the "Catalan republic" over the Spanish state, and said Prime Minister Rajoy and his allies "have lost".

"This is a result which no one can dispute," Mr Puigdemont told supporters in Brussels.

"I think we have earned our right to be listened to."

Mr Puigdemont said it was "a slap" for the Spanish PM, adding: "Rajoy has lost the mandate he sought."

The leader of the pro-Spanish party that won the most votes promised her party will continue to fight the region's separatists.

"The pro-secession forces can never again claim they speak for all of Catalonia," Ines Arrimadas said.

"We are going to keep fighting for a peaceful co-existence, common sense and for a Catalonia for all Catalans."

"Today we have sent a message to the world, that the majority of Catalans feel Catalan, Spanish and European and will continue to do so," she added.

It is unclear what Mr Puigdemont's next move will be.


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