Rajoy and Mas fly together to crash site

Politicians put their differences over sovereignty aside to offer a joint response to crisis French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also on scene

From left to right, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan premier Artur Mas talk with a rescue officer at Seyne-les-Alpes, near the crash site.
From left to right, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan premier Artur Mas talk with a rescue officer at Seyne-les-Alpes, near the crash site.Alberto Estévez (EFE)

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Catalan premier Artur Mas traveled together on Wednesday in a Spanish air force plane to visit the site of yesterday’s Germanwings plane crash, in the French Alps.

The plane left Torrejón air base in Madrid with Rajoy on board, then stopped at Barcelona airport to pick up the Catalan leader before flying on to France.

During the one-hour flight to Marseille, both men chatted in a friendly manner on the subject of the accident, said sources at La Moncloa prime ministerial palace.

The aircraft landed around 11.45am on Wednesday, and both politicians were picked up by different vehicles to cover the rest of the distance to the crisis coordination center that has been set up in Seyne-les-Alpes.

Mas told the French radio station Europe 1 that his disagreements with Rajoy have been postponed

Rajoy traveled in a vehicle that he shared with Public Works Minister Ana Pastor, while Mas rode in the Spanish ambassador’s car.

Shortly after 2pm they joined French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the crash site. The leaders were later scheduled to meet with relatives of some of the victims.

Rajoy and Mas maintained an ongoing public dispute last year over the Catalan sovereignty drive, of which Mas was the driving force.

Before departing Barcelona, the Catalan leader told the French radio station Europe 1 that his disagreements with Rajoy had been pushed aside.

“Evidently, all official activities have been placed on hold so we can focus on what's absolutely essential, that is to say, on organizing whatever is necessary to support the families of the victims; that is our absolute priority,” said Mas.

Three days of mourning have been decreed in all of Spain.

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