November 28, 2019 / 8:32 PM / 11 days ago

Spain's Socialists, Catalan separatists to continue talks on new government

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s Socialists and Catalan separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) said on Thursday they would again meet on Dec. 3 after initial talks in which they agreed the need for dialogue to break a deadlock on forming a new government.

The ERC said its position on the formation of a new government between the Socialists and the left-wing Podemos party remained negative. But it said it agreed on “the need for a political approach to a conflict which is of its nature political”.

The Socialists said differences between the two parties remained but there was a “shared will for dialogue”.

The Socialist PSOE party, led by acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, have been left scrambling for support following an election win this month in which they fell short of a majority after Spain’s fourth election in four years.

The PSOE’s 120 seats, combined with the 35 won by left-wing Podemos, leave them short of a majority in the 350-seat parliament, giving the 13 elected lawmakers of ERC a potential kingmaker role in unblocking the political stalemate in Madrid.

The left-learning ERC would not join any government but its abstention during a formal parliamentary vote to form a government could pave the way for Sanchez to take office. However significant obstacles remain to any deal.

ERC said it was sticking to its demands for dialogue to take place between the Spanish government and the Catalan regional government without preconditions, for talks to follow a clear timeline and for guarantees that any commitment would be carried out.

Party officials have said talks between the Catalan and Spanish governments were a “non-negotiable” condition and that the separatist party would not give up on its intention to talk about independence, something the Socialists have so far rejected.

Reporting by Jessica Jones and Joan Faus; editing by James Mackenzie and Sandra Maler

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