Canada is temporarily recalling its heads of mission to Israel and the West Bank, along with its United Nations representatives in New York and Geneva, to protest the Palestinians’ successful bid on Thursday for upgraded status in the UN.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird pledged to “review the full range of its bilateral relationship” with the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the vote in New York City.
“I want to get a sense from the diplomats what they see on the ground, how they see things going, and how we can effectively respond to what could be a new reality,” Baird told CBC News in an interview from New York on Friday.
Only nine countries voted against the Palestinian Authority’s bid to have its status in the UN upgraded to state recognition. (CBC)
Canada was one of nine countries, including the U.S. and Israel, to oppose upgrading the UN observer status of the Palestinian Authority from “entity” to “non-member state.”
In a statement released Friday morning, Baird said, “Yesterday’s unilateral action does nothing to further the Middle East peace process. It will not change the reality on the streets of the West Bank or Gaza. This unilateral step is an impediment to peace.
“We again call on the Palestinian Authority and Israel to return to negotiations without preconditions, for the good of their people.”
Abbas speech ‘combative’
There has been speculation that Canada will ask the Palestinian delegation in Ottawa to leave, or not renew its $300 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority over five years.
However, the minister appeared to discount that in an interview, saying the government values its relationship and dialogue with the Palestinian delegation in Ottawa.
“Sometimes you have to work with people that you disagree with,” he said. “That’s the nature of diplomacy and the nature of my job.”
He said there was no intention to break off relations with the Palestinian Authority.
The minister objected strongly to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s remarks before the UN voted Thursday.
“He basically accused the Israelis of some pretty heinous crimes, ethnic cleansing,” Baird told CBC’s Heather Hiscox.
“It was a combative speech. No tone of reconciliation. It was an opportunity for him to be magnanimous, to reach out to the Israeli government, and we’re disappointed that he didn’t take that opportunity.”