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The leader of Catalonia has stopped short of declaring independence from Spain, calling instead for international mediation in a dispute that threatens to fracture Europe's fifth-largest economy.
Carles Puigdemont, in a speech on Tuesday to the breakaway region's parliament in Barcelona, said the people of Catalonia had won the right to independence. The current relationship between Catalonia and the Spanish government is unsustainable, Puigdemont said.
But the Catalan leader asked Calatonia's parliament to suspend the effects of the region voting "yes" for independence and called for dialogue with the Spanish government. Puigdemont said it is worth exploring international mediation between Catalonia and Spain.
The current crisis in relations between Catalonia and Spain comes after pro-separatist sentiment in the wealthy northeast region came to a head with a symbolic referendum on independence on October 1. Then, around 90 percent of the 2.26 million voters who went to the polls said they wanted independence, although turnout was low at 42 percent.
Since the vote, which was marred by a police crackdown on voters, relations between the Spanish government and separatists have reached a low point with little, if any, communication between the two sides.
France and Germany, the two most powerful countries in the European Union, oppose Catalonia's bid for independence. French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that the European Union should not mediate in the crisis. Spain's government is able to handle the situation on its own, Macron said.