January 20, 2020 / 9:25 PM / a month ago

Spain PM Sanchez to meet with Catalan leader Torra first week of February

FILE PHOTO: Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez attends a news conference after the first cabinet meeting at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, January 14, 2020. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday he plans to meet with the leader of Catalonia region Quim Torra during the first week of February in as a first step to fulfill a pledge he made to get the support of a separatist party in Parliament.

Sanchez had promised Esquerra Republicana to open a round of dialogue over the future of the restive region with Catalan leaders in exchange for the party’s crucial abstention during his investiture in Parliament.

Sanchez at the time had said results of the dialogue would be submitted to voters in Catalonia, though it is unclear whether the vote would be binding.

“If we propose the vote of an agreement, it is to unite Catalans, not to fracture and divide them,” Sanchez said in an interview with Spanish national broadcaster RTVE on Monday evening.

He said he will go to Catalan capital Barcelona for the meeting with Torra.

The separatist movement in the northeastern region spiraled into political crisis after leaders defied Spanish courts to hold a 2017 referendum on independence. Nine leaders were later sentenced to up to 13 years in prison over their role in the failed independence bid.

Spain’s electoral board stripped Torra of his role as lawmaker earlier this month, a decision Torra is appealing but which could yet affect future dialogue with Sanchez.

Reporting by Jessica Jones, Editing by Inti Landauro and Bill Berkrot

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