Canada on Friday ordered back its heads of mission in Israel and Ramallah, as well as its envoys to the United Nations and Geneva, after the Palestinian Authority’s bid for an upgraded status at the United Nations was passed with a large majority.
"Canada is deeply disappointed but not surprised by yesterday's result at the United Nations General Assembly," Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement, according to AFP.
"Our government's position is clear: the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace is through negotiations, not unilateral actions,” he said.
"To that end, Canada is bringing its heads of missions in Israel and Ramallah and its permanent representatives to the UN in New York and Geneva back to Ottawa temporarily to assess the implications of yesterday's UN General Assembly vote and inform Canada's response to it.
"Canada will now review the full range of its bilateral relationship with the Palestinian Authority," emphasized Baird.
On Thursday, Canada joined Israel and the United States as one of only nine countries opposing the PA’s bid. The UN General Assembly backed non-member observer status for the PA by an overwhelming vote of 138 against nine, with 41 abstentions.
Other countries that voted against, besides Israel and Canada, were the United States, the Czech Republic, Panama, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau.
Baird has, however ruled out that his country would cut off its ties with the PA.
“We’re not, obviously, looking at breaking off relations with the Palestinian Authority,” he said, according to a report in The Globe and Mail.
He also said that he was impressed with the results from Canadian aid to the PA government in Judea and Samaria, a suggestion that Ottawa will not cut it off completely. Canada has provided $300-million in aid over the past five years.
Baird’s warning of retaliation has, however, provoked a stark response from the Palestinian Authority, The Globe and Mail reported.
The PA’s chief negotiator said Canada has “disqualified” itself from any future role in the Middle East peace process with its vitriolic opposition to upgraded UN status for the PA.
Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that Canadian threats of reprisals and Baird’s decision to personally campaign against the resolution at the UN have ruled Ottawa out of a future role.
“I believe this government is more Israeli than the Israelis, more settler than the settlers,” he said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “I think they have disqualified themselves from playing any role in the Middle East peace process.”
Baird took a prominent role in a debate before the UN vote on Thursday, providing a direct and lengthy argument against the PA bid, and serving as a staunch ally to the Israeli government’s interests.
“This resolution will not advance the cause of peace or spur a return to negotiations. Will the Palestinian people be better off as a result? No,” Baird said. “On the contrary, this unilateral step will harden positions and raise unrealistic expectations while doing nothing to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.”
Baird’s speech argued that the UN itself has repeatedly endorsed the rule that the only path to Middle East peace comes through negotiations – and that accepting the Palestinian Authority as a “non-member observer state” breaches that principle.
“It is for these reasons that Canada is voting against this resolution,” Baird said. “As a result of this body’s utterly regrettable decision to abandon policy and principle, we will be considering all available next steps.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had personally intervened to pressure PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to drop his bid for upgraded status at the United Nations.
Harper, who had been in New York to accept an award and attend the opening of a new session of the United Nations at the end of September, had "a short, brusque meeting with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas," The Globe and Mail reported.
"In a little room at the United Nations, Mr. Harper skipped most of the pleasantries in a 15-minute meeting, according to sources briefed on the session, and told Mr. Abbas he had come to deliver a message: If you keep doing what you're doing, he said - referring to the Palestinian bid for upgraded status - 'there will be consequences,'" the newspaper reported.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)