Statement by the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the Sharm el-Sheikh Conference

No. 2009/9 - Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt - March 2, 2009

Check Against Delivery

This meeting is a timely and important opportunity to take stock of the situation in the Gaza Strip, and to discuss the best way forward to help the Palestinian people and support the government of the Palestinian Authority at this critical juncture.

I would like to begin by expressing Canada’s sincere gratitude to the Government of Egypt and the Government of Norway for co-hosting this event.

Since the beginning of the recent hostilities, Canada has consistently reiterated the need for an immediate, sustainable and durable ceasefire, and has supported efforts toward this goal. Canada strongly believes that Israel has a right to defend itself; on this, we are unequivocal. We also believe, just as firmly, that it is not in the Palestinian people’s interest for terrorist organizations such as Hamas to launch rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Such attacks must not occur if the reconstruction of Gaza is to take place. We continue to urge the parties to work toward a long-term ceasefire agreement. We express our sincere gratitude for Egypt’s relentless dedication, including its efforts toward intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

Canada has long been active in assisting the Palestinian Authority and providing support toward the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state. Canada is also actively engaged diplomatically in supporting the Middle East peace process.

Canada has also paid special attention to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population. Since 2006, we have contributed some $100 million in humanitarian assistance, namely through the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In late 2007, Canada welcomed the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at the Annapolis Conference and pledged $300 million to support the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan at the occasion of the Paris Donors’ Conference. And we are implementing our commitment. Our aim is to help build the foundations of a prosperous, well-governed, democratic and peaceful Palestinian state.

Canada’s programming is directed to security sector and justice reform, and to private sector development. Canada is also contributing to the enhancement of the justice sector through its support for the training of Palestinian judges and the construction of courthouses.

Canada is proud to work with the United States Security Coordinator. The efforts of the USSC mission have been impressive. It has made an important contribution in improving the security environment and rebuilding confidence in the security services in West Bank towns such as Nablus, Jenin and Hebron, where Palestinian Security Forces have been deployed and are working in cooperation with Israel. I am happy to report that Canada will be increasing cooperation with the USSC mission, as well as continuing to participate in the EU Police Co-ordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support.

Canada recognizes the vast and pressing needs of the population in the Gaza Strip. For this reason, Canada provided an early contribution of $4 million in January to address these humanitarian needs.

Canada is working closely with the Palestinian Authority and other donors to ensure that Canadian assistance is effective. As recovery and reconstruction efforts continue in the Gaza Strip, the international community must utilize the open and transparent mechanisms in place and ensure that any new assistance does not in any way benefit or legitimize Hamas and other terrorist groups.

Canada believes in the course set by President [Mahmoud] Abbas—a course toward a Palestinian state living side-by-side and in peace with Israel. We will only work with a future Palestinian government that shares President Abbas’ vision.

The Palestinian Authority requires support for these efforts and for the ongoing implementation of its reform and development plan. We encourage Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible and work toward a comprehensive two-state solution. We will support those states in the region that have played such an important role in promoting peace, and those that have opened the door for regional stability through the Arab Peace Initiative.

Thank you.