Address by Minister Baird to Ad Hoc Liaison Committee
September 22, 2014 - New York City, United States
Check Against Delivery
Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words.
At the outset I’d like to pay tribute to the leadership of Foreign Minister Brende—for both Norway’s stewardship of this forum, and for bringing donors together with Egypt next month.
Since we last met, another conflict has passed with too many deaths, and the progress of the previous year has been eclipsed.
It has brought the parties further apart and has eclipsed the progress made in the last round of talks.
President Abbas understandably criticised Hamas for prolonging the conflict unnecessarily.
The devastation in Gaza is considerable.
In response, Canada has increased its humanitarian assistance.
There is of course a need to reconstruct Gaza given the significant damage to vital infrastructure, industries and homes throughout the Strip.
However, we must be careful that reconstruction assistance cannot be diverted for nefarious dual-use purposes.
An accountability framework between the Palestinian Authority and the international community could play an important role in ensuring this.
Just as important as physical reconstruction, is the need to reconstruct the governance of Gaza.
In doing this, there are two simultaneous, and mutually reinforcing, approaches that we should pursue.
First, by strengthening the hand of the PA in Gaza, and helping the voices of moderate Palestinians to be heard.
Second, by ensuring the PA is strengthened through its role in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
Stabilizing the PA’s fiscal situation, and enhancing the PA’s economic viability, is a matter of urgency.
The current reality is that economic growth is going down, and unemployment is going up, in both the West Bank and Gaza.
Further economic development in the West Bank, and revenue generation from the private sector, would secure the PA financially… and allow it to focus on the governance of both the West Bank and Gaza.
Canada is committed to playing our part.
During his official visit to the West Bank in January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced $66 million in additional support for the West Bank and Gaza.
This was an extension of the $300m already allocated over the past five years.
I won’t list all of the specific programmes to you today, but I’m pleased to say Canada has seen significant results from its development assistance.
We have also deepened our engagement with the Palestinian private sector.
And we were delighted to welcome the first Palestinian trade mission in a very successful visit to Canada earlier this year.
Unfortunately, the events of the summer, have underlined that economic growth and development can only be one part of a sustainable solution to this conflict.
In the West Bank, Canada is continuing to contribute substantially to the security and justice sectors.
But this capacity-building can only achieve so much while there remain major physical—and mental—barriers to peace.
As I said back in June when the new Palestinian government was announced: it’s time for President Abbas to make good on his promise of demilitarization.
That means the disarmament of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups operating in Gaza—including the Iranian proxy, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
It means the removal of existing stockpiles.
And it means Hamas fighters putting down their arms and embracing the peace process… central to which are the three conditions set out by the Quartet—but still rejected by Hamas.
Ultimately, while violence flows through weapons, it comes from the heads and hearts of those using them.
Too often, these heads and hearts are being filled with propaganda—and all leaders in Gaza and the West Bank have a responsibility for confronting this incitement.
Israelis and Palestinians need to be convinced once again not only that peace is possible, but that it is desirable.
There is still too much mistrust.
In this spirit, Canada strongly urges reconsideration of the apparent decision to exclude Israel from the conference in Cairo.
As we have all heard, new approaches are needed.
Canada urges all parties to reconsider old prejudices for the sake of achieving our goals.
The road to direct negotiations remains the most viable way towards a sustainable, prosperous Palestinian state living in peace and security with Israel.
Let’s start rebuilding that road.
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