Sánchez says Geneva meeting with Junts 'first of many inside and outside Spain'
Socialists' talks with Esquerra Republicana will have a different mediator
The meeting between Spain's governing Socialists and pro-independence Junts that took place on Saturday in Geneva will be the "first of many meetings inside and outside Spain," the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said in an interview with the Cadena SER radio network on Monday morning.
At the meeting in Switzerland, the two parties talked about "the working methodology" and agreed to appoint Francisco Galindo Vélez, a diplomat from El Salvador, to "facilitate the process" of reaching agreements.
There will also be meetings with Catalonia's other pro-indepence party with representation in Congress, Esquerra Republicana (ERC), but the mediator "in principle will not be the same," Sánchez said.
The Spanish prime minister said that he would like to be able to negotiate jointly with ERC and Junts, but that "it seems that right now this is premature, it is not ripe, and we will have dialogue with the two parties at different tables."
Sánchez defends Swiss meeting
The Socialists have faced criticism from the right for carrying out talks outside Spain. Sánchez justified their actions due to the fact that "some of the actors do not live in Spain, but in Brussels," referring to the former Catalan president and Junts founder, Carles Puigdemont.
Puigdemont has lived in exile since the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum but looks set to return to Catalonia as part of the amnesty agreed by pro-independence parties and the Socialists, in return for supporting Sánchez's reelection as prime minister.
Sánchez defended the need for "discretion" and insisted that Spanish citizens will know the content of any eventual agreements.
The amnesty, he said, is a measure that will "strengthen Spanish democracy" because in the medium term it means the reincorporation of parties that were, until now, "alien to the Spanish political system."
Conservative talks with ETA
Sánchez said he was "surprised" by the reaction from the right, recalling that the conservative government of José María Aznar met secretly with Basque terrorist group ETA in Switzerland "to resolve a violent conflict that harmed our democracy."
Regarding the amnesty, Sánchez said the right were using "the same arguments" as with the 2021 pardons for jailed pro-independence figures, but they no longer question the beneficial effects of that decision.
"This is a step that will strengthen Spanish democracy. We won't see it in the short term, but we will see it in the medium term," and "I think that the whole of Spanish society will benefit from it."
When questioned about Spanish citizens' opposition to the amnesty, Sánchez highlighted that 70% of Catalans are in favor.
He admitted he "didn't plan to introduce an amnesty as the next step, but the July election created a scenario that made the parties adopt this decision."
Junts accuse PP of xenophobia
Junts spokesperson accused the People's Party (PP) of xenophobia after they voiced their opposition to Galindo Vélez overseeing talks.
"It's normal that the PP are against having a mediator because it internationalizes the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain, but to disqualify someone based on their country of origin is xenophobia," said spokesperson Josep Rius.