Protesters joined by firefighters during a general strike in Barcelona called by Catalan unions on October 3, 2017. Photo; AFP/Marianne Barriaux with Roland Lloyd Parry.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel says a unilateral declaration of independence by Catalonia would be “irresponsible.”

Mr. Gabriel, whose country is the EU’s richest and most influential member, said in a statement Wednesday that “Europe’s strength lies in its unity and the peace that was brought by the European unity.”

He said that “a solution can only be successful through talks based on the rule of law and within the frame of the Spanish constitution.”

On Tuesday, Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont said he would proceed with secession from Spain but was suspending it for a few weeks to facilitate negotiations with Madrid.

The Spanish government, which rejected Mr. Puigdmont’s offer of talks,  has already started an urgent meeting Wednesday to discuss its next steps to halt the northeastern region of Catalonia from proceeding with a declaration of independence, following the October 1 referendum.

Spanish national television showed images of the ministers gathered around a tabled as the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, took off.