The Ottawa Citizen
Tue 07 Mar 2006
Byline: Mike Blanchfield
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay yesterday praised Russia’s decision to invite leaders of Hamas — considered by the Canadian government and others to be terrorists — to Moscow for three days of talks.
Mr. MacKay called the weekend initiative by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a "proactive" way of eventually persuading Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel, the conditions set by Russia, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations in pursuing the roadmap for peace in the Middle East.
"The quartet is rock solid. Canada endorses that position as well," said Mr. MacKay. "Although we had differed in the approach that we will not interact directly with Hamas, this dialogue I think has made significant progress in communicating that position forcefully.
"It’s one that Canada is very encouraged to hear, and we commend the initiative of the foreign minister."
Israel was angered by Russia’s invitation to Hamas, the first international foray for the organization to a non-Arab country since its victory in the Jan. 25 Palestinian elections.
Hamas rejected the quartet’s demands in Moscow, but Mr. Lavrov, who was in Ottawa yesterday, defended the meeting.
"It was not about us trying to make them like what we told them," he said. "It was about making sure that the message does not remain on paper, but rather begins to be implemented."
Mr. Lavrov said he managed to wrestle a personal commitment from Hamas that it would permit "an international monitoring mechanism," so that future aid to the Palestinian people was not diverted to fund future attacks on Israel.
That development has implications for Canada and the new Harper government, because it is still considering whether it will continue to fund $12 million in projects aimed at stimulating the Palestinian economy. Mr. MacKay said he was encouraged to hear Hamas might allow international oversight of aid.
"It provides the international community with more information about international aid … how international monitoring can ensure that that money is going to the Palestinian people, is reaching the destination and will not be subverted or perverted for a reason that would run contrary to the wuartet’s position," Mr. MacKay said.