Chirac says Paris would recognise Quebec

HUGH WINSOR

Ottawa

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015