Spain has apologised for the violent police crackdown following the independence referendum in Catalonia.
The conciliatory gesture comes as both sides seek a way out of the nation’s worst political crisis since it became a democracy four decades ago.
The softer tone contrasts with remarks earlier on Friday from Catalonia’s head of foreign affairs who told reporters it would go ahead with an independence debate in the regional parliament.
“Every threat, every menace, using the police, using the Constitutional Court has been useless in trying to get people to step back away from their legitimate rights,” Raul Romeva told reporters.
Who has done the apologising?
Spain’s representative in northeast Catalonia, Enric Millo.
“When I see these images, and more so when I know people have been hit, pushed and even one person who was hospitalised, I cannot help but regret it and apologise on behalf of the officers that intervened,” he said.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has offered all-party political talks to find a solution, opening the door to a deal giving Catalonia more autonomy.
However, he has ruled out independence and rejected a Catalan proposal for international mediation.
Lawmakers from Spain’s governing party say Rajoy is considering invoking the constitution to dissolve the regional parliament and force fresh Catalan elections if the region’s government goes ahead with an independence declaration.
Have the Catalan officials responded?
A Catalan parliament spokeswoman says the leader of the regional government, Carles Puigdemont, has asked to address lawmakers on Tuesday.
The timing appears to be at odds with earlier plans to move an independence motion on Monday.
Puigdemont wants to speak about the “political situation”.
What happened at the weekend?
Spanish police used batons and rubber bullets to stop people voting in Sunday’s referendum.
Madrid had banned it, saying it was unconstitutional.
The scenes brought worldwide condemnation and fanned separatist feeling but failed to prevent what the Catalan government described as an overwhelming yes vote.
Why is independence such a contentious idea?
Because the stakes are so high for the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy, so analysts say.
Catalonia is the source of a huge chunk of its tax revenue and is host to a range of multinationals from carmaker Volkswagen to drugs firm Astra Zeneca.
Secession could also fuel separatist-nationalist divisions across the rest of Spain and in other countries.
Is the crisis impacting on business yet?
Yes. Sabadell, one of the region’s two largest banks, decided on Thursday to move its legal base to Alicante.
Sources say Caixabank, Spain’s third-largest lender, will consider on Friday whether to also transfer its legal base away from the region.
On Friday, the central government passed a law to make it easier for companies to move their operations around the country just as some businesses are considering leaving.
Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos has told reporters the turmoil is damaging Catalonia.
The industrial and tourism powerhouse accounts for a fifth of the national economy.
Catalan police chief appears in court
Catalan police chief Josep Lluis Trapero appear in Spain’s High Court on Friday to answer accusations he committed sedition by failing to enforce a court ban on holding the referendum.
Unlike the national police, Catalonia’s force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, did not use force to prevent people voting.
Trapero has emerged as a hero for the pro-independence movement.
What do the Catalan people think?
Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggest a minority of around 40 % of residents in Catalonia back independence.
However, a majority wanted the referendum to be held and the violent police crackdown angered Catalans across the divide.
Catalan officials released preliminary referendum results showing 90% support in favour of breaking away.
However, turnout was only around 43%, as Catalans who favour remaining part of Spain boycotted the ballot.