U.S. President Donald Trump has come out in opposition to Catalan independence from Spain, saying the European country should remain "united."
"We're dealing with a great, great country and it should remain united," Trump said at a White House press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, the Washington Examiner reported.
"The people of Catalonia have been talking about this for a long time, but I bet you if you had accurate numbers and accurate polling, you would find they love their country, they love Spain, and they wouldn't leave," Trump added.
Trump's statement comes days before an upcoming Oct. 1 referendum on Catalan independence from Spain.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert previously said the government has “no position” on the Catalan vote. Some claim Rajoy is looking for Trump to unequivocally declare U.S. support for a united Spain, with others claiming his interests lie in convincing Spain to spend more money on its defense budget.
What is certain is that over the past month, the Spanish government has led massive crackdowns on the Catalan province’s right to vote, letting citizens of Catalonia decide if it will become a separate, sovereign nation.
The Oct. 1 referendum stems from the Catalan government passing a Sept. 6th law enabling it to hold an independence referendum to leave the Spanish government. Rajoy said Catalonia law represented an "intolerable act of disobedience."
Since then Rajoy and the Spanish government have tried several measures, including illegally confiscating nearly 10 million ballot sheets from Catalan government offices, arresting and fining 14 high-office government officials for organizing the vote and threatening to suspend budget funds to the province.
Each time, Catalan citizens and residents have answered with peaceful protests insisting they at least be allowed to vote. Recent polls by the Catalan government showed that while only half of citizens preferred to leave the Spanish union, 70 percent wanted the opportunity to vote on the independence measure.
Catalan Premiere Carles Puigdemont, who was voted into office in 2015 on a separatist platform, spearheaded the referendum. As of Saturday, a day after the Spanish government accused two separatist leaders of sedition, Puigdemont insisted the vote must go on.
He and the Catalan government created a public website three times enabling citizens to find their polling station. The Spanish government took it down each of those times.
This morning Puigdemont called the president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Masoud Barzani, to congratulate him on successfully carrying out a vote to create an independent Kurdish state.