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‘Stop lying’, Spanish minister tells Catalan separatists

Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis on Monday called on Catalonia’s separatist leaders to “stop lying” and start talks with the central government, less than a week before a planned independence referendum.

“My message for him (Catalan President Carles Puigdemont) is that a hypothetical declaration of independence won’t lead to anything because no one would recognise it,” he told AFP in an interview.

“They need to stop lying, come back to reason and accept that we will all find a place for Catalonia within Spain,” he said before travelling to Washington, where Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is due to meet US President Donald Trump.

Madrid argues that the referendum is illegal as it goes against the Constitution. Catalonia’s leaders retort they have a right to decide their future even if it not allowed by the Constitution.

Polls show that Catalans are sharply divided over whether they want independence, but a large majority would like a legal referendum to settle the matter.

“They say they defend democracy, but that’s not the case. They are excluding half the population,” Dastis said.

“What they are trying to do is set up a nationalist and discriminatory regime that deprives half of Catalonia’s population of its citizenship.”

Madrid has been criticised for not negotiating with Catalan separatists and instead using the legal tools at its disposal to stop the vote on October 1.

Dastis said the international community supported Madrid.

“It’s obvious that they support a state which is a perfectly normal democracy and only wants to implement values that we all share in the Western world and in the European Union.”

He also said the risk of violence was of concern to many people.

“But if there is violence, it will be on the part of those who are trying to promote something that has been declared illegal, unconstitutional and anti-democratic,” he said.