Olmert asks for PM’S Support after Annapolis
Canadian Jewish News
By ANDY LEVY-AJZENKOPF, Staff Reporter
|Thursday, 06 December 2007|
At the behest of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has offered Canada’s help in negotiating for peace in the Middle East.
Harper said he’d received a phone call from Olmert asking for Canada’s assistance in the ongoing peace effort. The call came a day after the Nov. 27 peace summit in Annapolis, Md., where Israel and the Palestinians agreed to work toward a final, two-state agreement by the end of 2008.
Harper described the phone call in the Nov. 28 question period in the House of Commons.
“Canada is optimistic about the meetings that took place yesterday in Annapolis. Prime Minister Olmert… called me just before question period regarding those meetings,” Harper said.
“I welcomed his recognition that peace in the Middle East will require painful compromises on all sides. I indicated, as did the minister of foreign affairs [Maxime Bernier]… that Canada stands ready to assist the process in any way that we can.”
Afterwards, the prime minister’s director of communications, Sandra Buckler, issued a statement saying Harper would assist in the peace process in “areas such as Palestinian security, enhancing Palestinian governance and development issues related to the creation of a Palestinian state.”
No further details were given.
In a statement released by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department immediately after the summit, Bernier said Canada has consistently supported “the security and well-being of Israel and its legitimate place within the Middle East and the international community… and the establishment of a democratic, peaceful Palestinian state.”
Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Canada-Israel Committee, which represents the Canadian Jewish community on matters pertaining to relations between the two countries, said Olmert’s phone call was emblematic of the increasingly “close, bilateral” relationship between Israel and Canada.
“Just the fact that Olmert insisted on carving out time with Harper, with all that was going on in Annapolis, is indicative of the relationship,” Fogel said. “[For Israel] to have a country that it can have confidence in to ensure and execute… investment in creating an open [Palestinian] society, is no small thing.”
Though many political observers think Annapolis was a fruitless exercise, believing both Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to be too embattled and powerless at home to effect change, both leaders expressed high hopes for peace in the region.
Olmert, in his closing address of the summit said, “I believe it is time. We are ready. I invite you, my friend Mahmoud Abbas, and your people, to join us in this long, tormenting and complex path, for which there is no substitute. Together we will start. Together we will arrive.”
One of the agreements reached at Annapolis will see Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resume peace talks on Dec. 12, with ongoing meetings between the two delegations scheduled bi-weekly thereafter.
Harper said he expected to be in touch with “other leaders in the days and weeks ahead” to monitor the peace process.