Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont declares independence - but leaves it on hold

Catalonia declared independence this afternoon

Carles Puigdemont, seen here on the day of Catalonia's referendum, made the appearance the

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The leader of the Catalan Parliament has declared independence -  but says he is willing to suspend the formal declaration to push for dialogue with Spain.

Carles Puigdemont made the commitment during a speech at the Catalan Parliament this afternoon.

Puigdemont said he remains committed to separating from Spain, but said he wishes to do so via a formal process of negotiation with counterparts in Madrid - rather than a unilateral declaration of independence.

Therefore he demanded that Catalonia's proposed declaration be suspended, allowing officials in Madrid and Barcelona to map out a route to independence.

This means that, provided Puigdemont's proposals are accepted, Catalonia will hold off on beginning the transition process until the dialogue is complete.

Puigdemont also blasted the "catalanophobia" in the rest of Spain, while suggesting that the people of his region are "living through moments of historic dimensions."

He also talked at length about Catalonia's struggle for autonomy, suggesting it had gone to great lengths to secure a legal referendum.

Switching from Catalan to Spanish, he sent a "message of serenity" to the national government, adding that "we are not criminals.

"We don't have anything against Spain or Spanish people [but] for years the relationship hasn't worked."

Honouring the result

Puigdemont had been widely expected to declare independence following last week's unofficial referendum, which returned a 90% majority in favour of separation.

Following the referendum, which was marred by widespread violence across Catalonia, Puigdemont pledged to honour the result and deliver independence for the Catalan people.

Puigdemont had originally planned to speak at the Parliament yesterday (October 9) but Spanish authorities had blocked the event.

Spain has maintained that the referendum was both illegal and invalid, with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy claiming the plebiscite didn't even take place.

Critics have also pointed out that only 2.2 million voted in the referendum, well under 50% of Catalonia's total registered voters.