G8 needs balanced approach to Israel: Harper
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he's glad that the final communiqué from the G8 meeting in France makes a "balanced statement" about Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Harper was pressed repeatedly Friday to confirm that Canada had objected to any language in the final communiqué that included mention of Israel's pre-1967 borders. Diplomats involved in Middle East discussions said G8 leaders had to soften a statement urging Israel and the Palestinians to return to negotiations, because of Canada's objections, Reuters reported.
The prime minister ignored the question from reporters about Canada's role in the wording of the communiqué, but said it was important not to "cherry pick" U.S. President Barack Obama's recent speech calling for the 1967 ceasefire lines to be a starting point for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
"I think the [G8] statement that was agreed to is a balanced statement," Harper said. "I think if you are going to get into other elements, then obviously I would like to see reference to elements that were also in President Obama's speech such as, for instance, the fact that one of the states must be a Jewish state. The fact that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. I think it's important any statement on this question be balanced, as was President Obama's."
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Meanwhile, G8 nations are pledging $20 billion US to support countries that are transitioning to democracy in the Middle East and North Africa, but the promise will not include any new money from Canada.
The money would flow through multilateral banks, such as the European Investment Bank and the World Bank, to which Canada already makes a yearly commitment of billions of dollars.
CBC reporter Susan Lunn said from the Deauville summit that host country France has strongly pushed for the G8 to mobilize its support and financial aid for Egypt and Tunisia to protect early democratic reforms in both countries.
Canada agrees but says the money should flow through international monetary institutions.
"Canada has been increasing its commitment to those agencies," Lunn said. "They now pay more than $12 billion [Cdn] a year into those international agencies, like the World Bank, and that's how Canada is going to continue to support those two countries."
Stepped up support for lenders
Two years before the uprisings that rocked the Arab world, Canada upped its payments into three banks, including the African Development Bank, by $4.6 billion Cdn. Harper argues that multilateral lending institutions have the expertise required.
"That's the best way to get a co-ordinated international response," Harper told reporters late Thursday night.
CBC reporter Terry Milewski said it's important to note that the G8 money is not a direct injection of cash but an investment in banks that provide loans.
"It's a business, not a gift," he said.
In contrast, many of Canada's allies have pledged direct help as well. Obama has offered a $2-billion US package of loan guarantees and direct debt forgiveness to Egypt, while France and Britain have pledged hundreds of millions for supporting both nascent democracies.
"So there is a clear difference between Canada's strategy and theirs," Milewski said.
Harper also said as the summit wrapped up Friday that he would ask Parliament next month to agree to an extension of the Canadian military mission against Libya.
He said progress has been made against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, but more needs to be done.
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press