The Latest: Spain, Catalan leaders agree to seek crisis' end

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Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, left, shakes hands with the president of the country's Catalonia region, Quim Torra before a meeting in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. Prime Minister Sanchez met with Catalonia's regional President Torra, who heads a pro-secession coalition and wants self-determination to be part of the talks. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Latest on Catalan independence activists (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the regional leader of Catalonia have agreed to find a solution to the political crisis that has been festering since a failed secession attempt by the region last year.

After Sanchez and Catalan regional President Quim Torra met in Barcelona on Thursday, their governments issued a joint statement calling for a "commitment for effective dialogue that leads to a political proposal that has the backing of large part of Catalan society."

The statement, which The Associated Press has seen, was read out by the spokeswoman of the Catalan government, Elsa Artadi, after the meeting.

Artadi says that members of the two governments have agreed to meet again in January.

Sanchez plans to hold a Cabinet meeting of his government on Friday in Barcelona, which radical separatists groups are expected to protest.

The Spanish and Catalan governments have been at odds since the Catalan Parliament issued an illegal and ineffective declaration of independence last year.


7:30 p.m.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has arrived for a widely watched meeting in Barcelona with Catalonia's separatist-minded regional leader.

Catalan regional President Quim Torra greeted Sanchez with a handshake in front of Barcelona's Palau de Pedralbes on Thursday. They spoke briefly while walked into the grand building belonging to the regional government.

Sanchez is meeting with Torra a day before he holds a Cabinet meeting in Barcelona. Separatist groups are planning to protest the central government conducting business in Catalonia, where an established movement promotes secession from Spain.

The Spanish and Catalan governments have been at odds since the Catalan Parliament issued an illegal and ineffective declaration of independence last year.

Sanchez, who took office in June, has tried to thaw tensions with Catalonia's separatists. He and Torra meet for the first time in Madrid in July.


1:35 p.m.

A lawyer representing former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and five other Catalan politicians who have been charged in Spain for violent rebellion has appealed to the U.N.'s Human Rights Committee to help defend their democratic rights.

Nico Krisch denounced a "grave interference in the democratic order" linked to the charges against Puigdemont, who lives in exile in Belgium, as well as Oriol Junqueras, Raul Romeva, Josep Rull, Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Turull. The five are being held in pre-trial detention in Spain.

The Catalan politicians have been charged and suspended from office by Spain's Supreme Court for their roles in organizing an independence referendum in Catalonia 14 months ago.

The effort announced Thursday seeks the Geneva-based committee's intervention to help ensure their democratic right to exercise their parliamentary mandate.


12:45 a.m.

A spokeswoman for four jailed Catalan separatist leaders says they are abandoning their hunger strike more than two weeks after starting it because they consider that their protest has achieved its goals.

Speaking on behalf of the politicians, who are awaiting trial for their part in last year's attempt to secede from Spain, Pilar Calvo said Thursday the strike has drawn attention to the separatists' plight and prompted Spain's Constitutional Court to review some of their appeals, which enables them to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Pro-independence activist-turned-politician Jordi Sanchez and former Catalan cabinet member Jordi Turull began their hunger strike on Dec. 1. Ex-regional ministers Josep Rull and Joaquim Forn joined two days later.

The Constitutional Court had said the appeals were following the normal judicial calendar.