Spain’s king Felipe VI on Sunday urged the people of Catalonia to choose coexistence over confrontation, the BBC reported. “The road cannot lead again to confrontation and exclusion, which as we already know generate nothing but discord, uncertainty and discouragement,” Felipe said in his annual Christmas Eve speech.

On December 22, voters in Catalonia backed pro-independence parties in a snap election that the Spanish government had held in order to quell the secessionist movement.

Felipe urged Catalonia’s leaders to act and think responsibly and respect plurality, Bloomberg reported. The king said 2017 had been a difficult year for Spain because of the “conflict in Catalonia”. Everyone in the country is free to express their thoughts without imposing them on others, he added.

The king had heavily criticised those spearheading Catalonia’s independence movement after the referendum vote in October. Many Catalans, however, were angry that he did not mention the violence by the police to block the vote.