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Catalan premier sent letter to Trump, pope asking for support on referendum

In a missive written to the prime minister, Quim Torra called on world leaders to mediate a vote and said he was willing to negotiate with the Spanish government

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Catalan premier Quim Torra. EFE

Catalan premier Quim Torra sent a letter at the end of September to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, copied to US President Donald Trump, the pope and other world leaders, in which he asked for help in mediating a referendum on Catalan independence.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Periódico, Torra expresses willingness to engage in negotiations with the government and makes no reference of the ultimatum he made on Tuesday, when he threatened to withdraw support for the Socialist Party (PSOE) government in Congress if Sánchez does not propose an authorized referendum on secession from Spain within a month.

For all our sakes, a managed transition would be the preferable course

Catalan premier Quim Torra

The letter is written in English and addressed to Sánchez, but Torra also copied in Trump, Pope Francis, EU heads of government and the presidents of China, Ukraine and Kosovo.

In the letter, the Catalan premier calls on Sánchez “to authorize your government to enter mediated dialogue as quickly as possible,” arguing the “gap is not, in my view, unbridgeable.”

Torra states that “the Catalan side is not fixed upon securing immediate independence from Spain,” but rather “to ensure respect for the democratically expressed will of the majority of the Catalan population, through a legally binding free and fair referendum, in which both sides agree to abide by the results.”

Torra writes that it “would be increasingly more difficult” to move onto negotiations if the nine Catalan independence leaders who are currently in pre-trial detention for their involvement in last year’s unauthorized referendum and unilateral declaration of independence remain in prison.

In the letter, Torra suggests that Sánchez ask the public prosecutor to withdraw the charges against the nine or release them on bail as a gesture of good will. “Providing the nine have been released, the Catalan side is ready to explore all possible options with Madrid,” he adds.

The Catalan side is not fixed upon securing immediate independence from Spain

Catalan premier Quim Torra

The letter ends with the assertion: “For all our sakes, a managed transition would be the preferable course.”

News of the letter comes amid growing divisions in the Catalan independence movement, which is divided between those who want to reduce tensions in order to add new supporters to the cause – a group headed by the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), a historical party whose leader Oriol Junqueras is in pre-trial detention over last year’s failed secession bid – and those who want to ramp up the pressure, such as the anti-establishment CUP party, a small group whose parliamentary support has been pivotal to keeping separatists in power.

Torra, meanwhile, is accused by radical separatists of betraying “the spirit of October 1” and failing to openly disobey the state’s institutions.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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