Chirac says Paris would recognise Quebec



The Canadian Foreign Minister, Andre Ouellet, tried to play down the importance of a promise by President Jacques Chirac that France would recognise an independent Quebec if separatists gain a victory in next Monday's referendum.

Speaking after a meeting of the Cabinet, Mr Ouellet said he did not think Mr Chirac's comments during an interview in New York with CNN would have much impact on the campaign. "I think obviously some people in Quebec would like to see this as a major endorsement," he said. "If you look at what he said, it's not a major endorsement at all."

Mr Ouellet pointed out that Mr Chirac was responding to a hypothetical question from a caller to CNN. "He said he would recognise a fact. And everyone would recognise the fact [if separatists won]. It would change diplomatic relations."

In Paris, a presidential spokeswoman, Catherine Colonna, said Mr Chirac had not meant to endorse independence for Quebec, but separatist leaders in the province were quick to pounce on hiscomment. The Bloc Quebecois leader, Lucien Bouchard, said that by confirming a commitment Mr Chirac had made to him a year ago, when the Quebec leader had visited Paris, he was supporting the separatists' argument that Quebec can survive as an independent country.

President Chirac told the interviewer that France would respect the outcome of the referendum vote but would not interfere in the referendum campaign. Mr Chirac had also given the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, an assurance that France would not meddle in the referendum when he attended the G-7 Summit in Halifax in June.

This is in contrast to France's position during the 1980 referendum campaign, when French agents were active in promoting Quebeckers' dissent.

Mr Chirac's earlier promise to Mr Bouchard was made while he was still only the mayor of Paris. The Bloc Quebecois leader had visited France seeking commitments because international recognition would be a crucial for a nascent independent Quebec.

Mr Bouchard also visited Washington but had a frosty reception. While saying formally that Quebec's future is for Quebeckers to decide, US officials, including President Bill Clinton, have made it clear they wish Canada to be stable and united. Last week, the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, went a step further , saying that Quebec would have a tough time negotiating trade deals.

For an independent Quebec, French recognition would have an important moral impact. But the separatists' first priority for formal recognition is the US. It will also be crucial for Quebec's industries to gain access to the North American Free Trade Agreement, an admission that the US and Canadian governments have said will not be automatic.

Quebec has also said it will apply to the World Trade Organisation and that it would like to become a partner in both Nato and Norad, the North American Air Defence pact.

Financial markets have continued to react to polls that place the "Yes" side with a narrow lead over the federalist side. On Monday, the Canadian dollar had lost a full cent against the US dollar, though yesterday the drop had slowed, levelling out at about 72.86 cents.

Three polls will be released this week which could also have an impact, especially on what are considered to be strategic voters who want to give Quebec a strong bargaining position with the rest of Canada but who do not want to separate.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears