The Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Canada is in a "real dilemma" as the new Conservative government ponders whether to withdraw aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, says Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.
In an interview, Mr. MacKay said the federal government will continue to wait for "clear and unqualified signals" that Hamas will recognize the existence of Israel and renounce violence before carrying through on a threat to cease more than $60 million worth of foreign assistance that Canada gives to the Palestinian Authority.
"Until there is an official statement of revocation toward this aggression toward the state of Israel, until we see a shift away from the continued advocacy of terrorist activity and violence, it is incompatible for Canada to continue with support," Mr. MacKay said on the eve of his first trip abroad since being sworn in to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet earlier this month.
Mr. MacKay’s trip will take him to London to meet with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, to NATO meetings in Brussels and to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
It comes as Israel and much of the rest of the world watch to see whether Hamas will join the peace process.
Mr. MacKay said Canada’s position is "troubling" because the government supports the democratic electoral process that brought Hamas to power, but abhors the group’s "aggression" toward Israel.
"Hamas is a listed entity in our Criminal Code and it’s fair to say that we’re in a real dilemma … because of this very real, apparent contradiction," Mr. MacKay said.
The U.S. and the other foreign powers known as the quartet in the formal peace process have decided to withhold judgment on aid to the Palestinians until the full Hamas government is in place.
Mr. MacKay agreed that Canada must also give the incoming government a "reasonable opportunity" to change.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2006