Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said that the region “will become an independent state” following the referendum last week, but stepped back from making an immediate declaration of independence as he called for more dialogue.
“Today I assume the mandate for Catalonia to become an independent State in the form of a republic,” he told the regional parliament on Tuesday night. “The ballots boxes said yes to independence, and this is the only language we understand”.
But he added that “we propose to suspend independence declaration to start dialogue in the coming weeks”.
The Spanish government has so-far rejected calls to talk with the separatists over independence, calling for them to come back within the law. The Spanish constitutional says that independence is illegal because Spain is “indivisible”.
The Catalan government are putting their hopes in international mediation, pressing European leaders to come to their aid.
Madrid had previously threatened to suspend the autonomy of the region and even throw Mr Puigdemont in jail if he declared independence, something that would likely have been resisted by militants on the ground in Barcelona.
It is not clear how Madrid will react to the speech with this delayed declaration. Xavier García Albiol, the leader in Catalonia of Spain’s ruling Popular party, on Tuesday said: “We are not going to accept any kind of independence declaration, whether it be immediate or deferred.”
The euro pushed slightly higher against the dollar on Mr Puidgemont’s decision to seek negotiations, reaching $1.1825. That was around 0.2 per cent higher since the start of his speech and took the euro 0.7 per cent higher on the day.
Additional reporting by Roger Blitz