Recognition of Kosovo has no bearing on Quebec: PM
Published Thursday, March 20, 2008 6:30AM EDT
LONDON, Ont. - Quebec nationalists hoping to take a page out of Kosovo's independence book are misreading two very different situations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday.
In fact, Canada's recognition of Kosovo as a state independent from Serbia has no relevance to Quebec, Harper said.
"The situation of Kosovo is very unique, which is why the government has taken the action it has," the prime minister said.
"The situation that evolved there was a situation of war (and) terrible suffering by the Kosovars."
The bloodshed in the region prompted intervention by the international community, which essentially set up a United Nations-run authority resulting in a "de facto separate state," Harper said. That paved the way for the country's declaration of independence on Feb. 17, Harper added.
Ottawa delayed taking the formal recognition step for almost a month, prompting speculation that it was staying quiet to avoid raising any comparisons with Quebec.
Quebec sovereigntists, who have been watching closely, were pleased when Ottawa ultimately decided to recognize Kosovo. They contend Canada's recognition has set the stage to eventually recognize an independent Quebec - if that's what Quebecers decide they want.
"A people decides to become a country and other countries recognize that fact," the Parti Quebecois' Daniel Turp said recently. "What is special is that Serbia is against the independence of one of its component parts and . . . other countries ignore this objection."
On Wednesday, Harper said most Quebecers are tired of the separation chatter and simply want to get on with their lives as Canadians.
"Quebecers have been very clear - they're not interested in more referendums and more debate about separation," Harper said.
"They want to get on with building a strong Quebec within a strong Canada, and that's what our government is dedicated to doing, as is the government of Quebec."
Later, at an evening event in Guelph, Ont., two protesters among a diverse group of about 20 held signs saying "Kosovo equals Quebec."
The prime minister, on an election-style swing through southwestern Ontario, noted that Kosovo has now been widely recognized as an independent country. About 30 countries have recognized the new country much to the outrage of Serbia, which considers the declaration illegal under a UN Security Council resolution.
Another two dozen countries, including Russia, have sided with the Serbs.
Serbia has responded to Ottawa's decision by recalling its ambassador and issuing a diplomatic protest.
The Foreign Affairs Department has issued a warning to Canadian travellers in the region after violent demonstrations and political gatherings were held in Serbia and Kosovo. Rioting broke out Feb. 21 in Belgrade, where demonstrators stormed the U.S. Embassy and set part of it on fire.
Canada was part of a NATO military force that intervened in Kosovo in 1999 to stop Serbian attacks on the civilian population.
Kosovo, which is 90 per cent ethnic Albanian, has not been under Serbian control since the NATO force moved in on the heels of massive air strikes.
A UN mission has governed Kosovo since, but Serbia and Kosovo's Serbs - who make up less than 10 per cent of the population - refuse to give up territory they consider to be the ancient cradle of the Serbian state and religion.