Canada considers next steps after Palestinian vote

Foreign Minister John Baird met Tuesday with diplomats recalled in the wake of last week's vote on Palestinian statehood, the government said in a statement that also offered its first comment on Israel's decision to build new settlements in the West Bank.
Foreign Minister John Baird speaks against a resolution at the UN General Assembly last week to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state. Canada is considering its next steps in the wake of the vote. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino met Tuesday with four Canadian diplomats recalled from the West Bank, Israel and the UN in the wake of last week's vote to grant non-member observer state status to the Palestinians.

A spokesperson for Baird said the meeting with the four heads of mission from Ramallah, Tel Aviv, Geneva and New York lasted more than 90 minutes to exchange information on "where we are and where we want to go."

In a statement, spokesman Rick Roth repeated that Canada would not recognize a Palestinian state in the absence of a peace treaty, but also addressed for the first time Israel's response to the vote, including the announcement of new settlement building in areas in the West Bank claimed by the Palestinians.

"The Palestinian Authority's actions and provocative rhetoric at the UN General Assembly would obviously elicit a response from Israel. Neither is helpful to advance the cause of peace," the carefully worded statement said.

Israel's announcement on the settlements was widely criticized by Canada's European allies, and even the United States, which voted with Canada and Israel against the motion to grant non-voting observer state status to the Palestinians, urged Israel to "reconsider" its decision on the settlements on Monday.

Baird did not comment when asked Tuesday morning about the move.

Roth also said Fantino would review Canada's funding to the Palestinians for humanitarian and security projects.

"We intend to, by and large, see these projects through. The relevant minister will, as a matter of course, as they do on all matters, review the path forward once the projects have been successfully completed," the spokesman said in an email to media outlets Tuesday.

Canada's five-year, $300-million commitment formally expires at the end of the current fiscal year, in March.

The money goes toward strengthening the Palestinian justice system, private sector economic development and health and education assistance.

With files from The Canadian Press