Stéphane Dion signals willingness to re-engage with Russia
'We can agree to disagree but we can't stop talking,' Russia's ambassador to Canada says
Diplomatic relations between Canada and Russia may be headed for a thaw after the foreign ministers for both countries signalled it was time to start talking and working together in areas of common interests.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently told reporters in Moscow that the last two years were a "lost opportunity" in terms of bilateral relations between Canada and his country. He said Canada had followed the "blatant interests of the Ukrainian diaspora ignoring Canada's national interests."
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Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion responded Tuesday by telling reporters that while Canada would always stand with Ukraine, it was time to start working with Russia "when we have common interests."
"Canada was speaking to the Russians even during the tough times of the Cold War. And now we are not speaking ... because of the former policy, of the former government," Dion said on Parliament Hill. "In which way is this helping Ukraine? In way is it helping our interests in the Arctic?"
"We have a lot of disagreements with the government of Russia but it's certainly not the way to stop speaking with them when the Americans speak with them and all the Europeans, the Japanese, everybody except Canada," Dion added.
Speaking on CBC News Network's Power & Politics Tuesday, Russia's Ambassador to Canada, Alexander Darchiev, said Russia was "encouraged" by the October election results that brought a change of government in Canada and said that it was time to restore a "true dialogue between Russia and Canada."
"We need to go back to common sense as opposed to name-calling and brinksmanship statements that we so often heard before the October elections," he said. "I am not criticizing anyone, but what we have seen is ideology put before pragmatism, and this was counter-productive in terms of Canada's own interests."
'Can't stop talking'
"We have disagreements but we need to talk and that was the message that I brought here when I came as ambassador, we need diplomacy. We can agree to disagree but we can't stop talking," Darchiev said.
The ambassador said Canada could do more on the world stage by drawing on its experience as a mediator, and sharing its experience. "For instance, by advising Ukraine to transform into a federation like in this country," he said.
Sanctions imposed by Western countries, including Canada, following Moscow's involvement in Ukraine have only added to Russia's current economic crisis brought on by the plunging price of oil and a deeply depreciated currency.
Dion was not specific about whether or not Canada would lift sanctions and travel bans imposed on certain organizations and individuals in Russia after the Putin regime annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia issued counter-bans on some Canadian food imports and restricted entry for a list of Canadians. Those sanctions are still in effect.