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Good offices Switzerland ready to help mediate in Catalonia

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont are not talking

(Bildmontage Swissinfo)

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy refuses to talk to Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont. In the conflict over Catalonia's independence, however, Switzerland is in contact with both factions.

The Swiss foreign ministry is ready to set up a platform for dialogue between the Spanish Government and the Catalan authorities, according to the Swiss public television RTS. The ministry confirmed to RTS that the Swiss authorities are "in contact with both parties". In principle, it said, it examines all arbitration requests and reacts positively to them whenever possible. 

"Switzerland is in contact with both parties, but the conditions for facilitation are not in place at this stage," a foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters.

The foreign ministry could not say anything more concrete, because discretion is the top priority in international mediation, and transparency could endanger the entire process. If Switzerland takes on the role of mediator, its impartiality could otherwise be called into question. 

Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont had already called on Monday for international mediation by "a third party" in the conflict between Barcelona and Madrid. To his regret, Puigdemont said he has no contact with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He added: "It's clear that an intermediary is necessary.”

In a televised speech on Wednesday, Puigdemont repeated the call: "I am available for a mediation process because peace, dialogue and negotiation are part of our political nature.”

Building bridges

In international conflicts, Switzerland already has a reputation as a credible, respected and committed mediator. Switzerland's good offices act as a discreet bridge-builder in the background, and were recently used in the conflict between North Korea and the United States.

Earlier this week, members of the European Parliament also called for the European Union to play a mediating role. Jo Leinen, deputy for Germany’s Social Democratic Party, proposed former Commission President Romano Prodi or former Council President Herman Van Rompuy as mediators.

In the Catalonia conflict, however, the EU will find it difficult to act independently of its own interests. That is why there is no evidence to date that the EU could play a mediating role.

An earlier version of this story suggested that Catalonia had requested Swiss mediation help; in fact no such request has been confirmed. We regret the error.

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