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Spanish PM opens talks with Catalonian leaders on separatist movement

REUTERS/Sergio Perez

By Associated Press

Spain's prime minister and the leader of Catalonia are opening formal talks in the hope of resolving the festering political crisis provoked by the region's separatist movement.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and members of his government will host Catalan regional chief Quim Torra and his delegation in Madrid's Moncloa Palace, the seat of Spain's Government, on Wednesday afternoon.

No major breakthrough is expected from the meeting given the political abyss separating the two sides.

Mr Sanchez said: "Today we will initiate our talks, and the way forward is going to be difficult, complex and long."

Mr Torra has insisted he will repeat his demands for Catalonia to be allowed to hold a referendum on independence and for the release of nine separatist leaders who are serving prison sentences for their role in an illegal 2017 secession attempt.

Mr Sanchez has promised his government will not consider an independence vote for the region. He has said he will instead focus on improving relations between Spain and the restive region, while also decreasing tensions in Catalonia caused by the divisive issue.

Polls and the most recent election results indicate roughly 50% of the 7.5 million residents of north-eastern Catalonia are in favour of secession.

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