Belgium’s prime minister has distanced himself from Carles Puigdemont, insisting his government did not invite the ousted Catalan leader to the country and will not give him special treatment.

In an official statement after Mr Puigdemont addressed the international press in Brussels today, Charles Michel said the rebel leader should be treated like “any European citizen”.

“In the words of Mr Puigdemont, he came to Brussels because it is the capital of Europe”, said Mr Michel. “The Belgian government has not taken any steps to bring about the arrival on the Belgian territory of Mr Puigdemont.”

Mr Michel, who has condemned Madrid’s police violence against Catalan voters in a referendum on October 1, said his government would “maintain regular diplomatic contacts with Spain in the present circumstances”.

Earlier today, Mr Puigdemont denied he was in Belgium to seek asylum or to involve himself in Belgian domestic politics.

Belgium’s nationalist Flemish party has also denied inviting the Catalan president or having any contact with him in the country this week. Mr Puigdemont, who is in Brussels with government officials and has met Catalan MEPs, said he would only return to Barcelona once he has guarantees over his safety from Madrid.

Asked how long he would stay in Belgium, Mr Puigdemont said “it depends on the circumstances”.

“This is not a Belgian problem. I’m here in Brussels because it’s the capital of Europe.”

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