Spain deputy PM meets fugitive Catalan leader for talks on new government

Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont meets Spanish Deputy PM Yolanda Diaz, in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Spain's acting deputy prime minister met exiled Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont in Brussels on Monday, seeking support from the separatist fugitive from Spanish justice to keep Pedro Sanchez's left-leaning coalition in power.

Yolanda Diaz met the Catalan separatist following an inconclusive election on July 23 which resulted in a hung parliament, making Puigdemont, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since leading Catalonia's failed push for secession from Spain in 2017, the unlikely kingmaker.

Diaz's political platform Sumar described the meeting as "fruitful" and "cordial", allowing the two sides to "establish a normal relationship."

"We are in agreement about exploring all the democratic solutions to unblock the political conflict," Sumar said, according to a statement.

Puigdemont was less effusive, saying on X, formerly Twitter, that "maintaining political relations between formations of different ideologies should not be a surprise, nor an exception."

Alberto Nunez Feijoo, whose conservative People's Party won the most votes in the election, will take the first stab at an investiture vote on Sept. 27, although his chances of winning are seen as slim, as he is still four votes short after receiving support from his few allies including far-right Vox.

Meanwhile, Sanchez, the Socialist head of the caretaker leftist coalition government, is in talks to get the necessary support for his own candidacy in a hypothetical second vote, if the conservative leader's attempt to form a government fails.

The support or abstention of Puigdemont's Junts party, and an array of other separatist or regionalist parties that have supported Sanchez in the past, will be crucial for winning the right to form a government.

Sanchez's Socialist party said it was not involved in coordinating the meeting, although it had been informed it would take place.

The parties on the right have condemned Sanchez's reliance on separatist parties in the previous legislature, and the current attempts to sway Junts, as a betrayal of Spain's interests for the sake of preserving power.

(Reporting by Bart Biesemans and Yves Herman; Additional reporting by Belén Carreño in Madrid; Writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Peter Graff and Christina Fincher)