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Bureau du Québec à Tel-Aviv: a first discreet mission

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The Quebec Office in Tel Aviv is located in the premises of the Canadian Embassy in Israel, Nirim Street. (Archive photo)

  • Jérôme Labbé (View profile)Jérôme Labbé

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The Quebec Office in Tel Aviv is taking shape. The head of post, Alik Hakobyan, arrived on site a month ago for a diplomatic mission which will end this week – a stay passed over in silence, while the Minister of International Relations, Martine Biron, has been saying for months that the work is done from Montreal.

Mr. Hakobyan began to settle in the Canadian Embassy, ​​rue Nirim, where premises were dedicated to the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv. Her mission, which began on February 26, should normally end on Wednesday, March 27, Minister Biron's office confirmed on Monday.

The head of post was sent to Israel to make contacts and build relationships. On Monday, for example, Hakobyan met with diplomats from Bavaria and Catalonia.

Despite the war between Israel and Hamas, Tel Aviv is a safe city, argued Ms. Biron's office, which used the same term to describe the Canadian embassy.

However, it was for security reasons that the inauguration of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv, which was to take place last fall in the presence of Ms. Biron and Mr. Hakobyan, had been postponed to an indefinite date, a few days after the surprise attack on the border areas of the Gaza Strip by Hamas on October 7.

Middle East, the eternal conflict

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Last Friday, the minister's office again affirmed that the head of post [operated] from Montreal and that he [would] move to Tel Aviv when security conditions [permitted]. At most, Ms. Biron had indicated in the press scrum that Mr. Hakobyan was perhaps going to go back and forth.

In the facts , the main person concerned had been in Israel for three weeks at that time, without his stay having been publicized in any way.

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Minister Biron was not available to grant us an interview on Monday. (Archive photo)

Made aware of this trip, the Quebec Solidaire (QS) caucus denounced Monday a trip made on the sly.< /p>

In a written statement sent to Radio-Canada, its spokesperson for international relations, Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, considered that it was absolutely aberrant to learn that Quebec, in the current context, is strengthening its relations [with Israel] by formalizing the field missions of its office in Tel Aviv.

QS has been trying for months to convince the Legault government to reverse course on this issue. The party notably filed a petition with almost 12,000 signatures last month to demand the closure of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv, but in vain.

Conversely, the Legault government argues that the decision to establish a first diplomatic representation in the Middle East was taken well before the assault of October 7, i.e. in the summer of 2023 , and that this should normally serve as a gateway to the continent.

Also the opening of the Quebec Office in Israel should “in no way” be perceived as taking a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Minister Biron further assured, Friday, during a speech to the Council on International Relations of Montreal (CORIM). /p>

The establishment of a diplomatic representation in Tel Aviv in the current circumstances nevertheless remains a delicate operation due to opposition from part of civil society.

Saturday, for example, hundreds of people marched in the streets of Montreal to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, but also to denounce the opening of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv.

Alik Hakobyan was appointed head of post of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv on September 18, 2023. He immediately took office, confirmed the minister's office Biron, Monday.

The diplomat is, for the moment, the only employee of the Quebec Office in Tel Aviv. The aim, it is argued, is to ensure that Mr. Hakobyan can gradually settle in Israel to work full time as soon as possible.

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