Address by Katherine Verrier-Frechette on Behalf of Foreign Affairs Minister Baird to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee

September 25, 2013 - New York City, New York

Check Against Delivery

I am delighted to be here today to reiterate Canada’s continued support for efforts toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in particular, our support for strengthening the Palestinian economy. Canada is deeply committed to the current U.S.-led efforts to generate rapid job gains for Palestinians as a key way to tangibly demonstrate to ordinary Palestinians that engaging in peace talks generates concrete benefits.

However, it was disappointing to learn that for the first time in 12 years, the economy of the West Bank shrank during the first quarter of this year.

In our view, it is critical that the Palestinian economy and private sector continue to grow. Job creation is the only sustainable way to deliver security, stability and prosperity to the Palestinian people.

During his visit to Ramallah this year, Foreign Affairs Minister [John] Baird saw the potential of the Palestinian private sector, for example, in building the first Palestinian planned city at Rawabi, which is creating between 8,000 to 10,000 jobs in construction and attracting US$850 million in investment to the project—which will generate a further 3,000 to 5,000 professional jobs. I encourage all of my colleagues to visit the project during their next visits.

When Foreign Minister Riad Malki [of the Palestinian Authority] visited Ottawa last week, Baird announced new Canadian funding for private sector development, with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship that will complement the job creation efforts discussed today.

These new funds are part of a broad-based contribution to [U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry’s and [Special Envoy of the Middle East Quartet] Tony Blair’s initiative to kick-start economic development in the West Bank. We look forward to seeing the full roll out of the economic initiative in the coming months.

Only so much can be done by the international community, and indeed our goal should be to find a way to allow the Palestinians to reduce their foreign aid dependency. Canada encourages the Palestinians to continue with their internal reforms toward fiscal sustainability and developing an education system that provides skills training that meets market needs and combats incitement.

Israel can also continue to play a significant role, as further reductions of movement and access restrictions, for example, will significantly benefit the economy. We were pleased to hear that the number of permits for Palestinians to work in Israel last month was at a level not seen for 12 years, and that a number of restrictions on imports into Gaza have also been relaxed.

Last weekend, two IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers, Sergeant Tomer Hazan and Staff Sergeant Major Gabriel Kobi, were murdered in separate incidents in the West Bank. We condemn these cowardly acts of terrorism. The perpetrators must face justice. But we must not allow the terrorists to succeed in shaking our common resolve to pursue peace through a comprehensive, negotiated agreement that will end the conflict once and for all.

Finally, I’d like to reiterate Canada’s wholehearted support of the ongoing peace negotiations and our continued enthusiasm for efforts to strengthen the Palestinian economy, the success of which will be instrumental to a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.

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