The separatist leader of Catalonia stepped back from the brink last evening, postponing a unilateral declaration of independence and offering to open talks with the central government of Madrid. “Today we are making a gesture of responsibility in favor of dialogue,” Carles Puigdemont, the president of Catalonia told the regional parliament. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has repeatedly refused to negotiate with Catalan leaders unless they abandon their plans to declare independence. Mr. Puigdemont had pledged to declare his region’s independence after voters in a referendum 10 days ago overwhelmingly endorsed that move. But only 43 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, and Puigdemont is hesitating in the face of strong opposition from European leaders and signs that businesses were fleeing the region, fearful of what independence could mean. Experts in Barcelona are unclear about what happens next and say the situation remains as uncertain as it was a week ago in the wake of the referendum. Puigdemont also suggested that an international mediator might bring Madrid and Barcelona together.