Marc Garneau reaffirms support for ‘two-state solution’ on Middle East trip

Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said he reaffirmed Canada’s support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his recent five-day trip to the Middle East, adding that both sides of the conflict should take steps to “lower the temperature” during a fragile ceasefire.

“I reaffirmed Canada’s long-standing position that a two-state solution is the best path to comprehensive, just and lasting peace for both Israel and Palestinians,” Garneau told a news conference today. “As a starting point, all parties have a role to play at this time to lower the temperature.”

On his tour, which took him to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, Garneau met with government leaders, fellow foreign ministers and other officials.

Among them was Naftali Bennett, the new prime minister of Israel who is presiding over a fragile coalition government. Bennett took over from Benjamin Netanyahu, who was prime minister for over a decade and is now leader of the opposition.

Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett sits with Yair Lapid, left, during a Knesset session in Jerusalem Sunday, June 13, 2021. (Ariel Schalit/The Associated Press)

The trip was Garneau’s first to the region since becoming minister of foreign affairs in January of this year.

Garneau referred to a two-state solution as a “long-term” goal and said that there are pressing short-term issues to address.

Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, agreed to a ceasefire on May 21 after 11 days of fighting which killed hundreds of people, most of them in Gaza.

The ceasefire has been tested by further clashes. Hamas sent fire-carrying balloons into southern Israel after a parade of Israeli ultranationalists marched through East Jerusalem. Israel retaliated with air strikes on Gaza.

Garneau called maintaining the ceasefire his number one priority in the region. His second priority, he said, is to get humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“Gaza … was hit hard, not only with the loss of life but also with the destruction of many homes and also infrastructure that is essential to carry out a normal life,” he said.

Garneau said that during his meetings he offered advice to both Israeli and Palestinian leaders. He said he encouraged Israel to cease settlement activities in East Jerusalem, calling the settlements “quite provocative.”

Garneau said he advised the Palestinian Authority to conduct elections as soon as possible.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delayed elections in April — which would have been the first 15 years — citing disputes with Israel about voting in East Jerusalem.

Garneau said Palestinians should have the opportunity to vote.

“We feel that it is very important for the democratic process and the fact that many Palestinians would like to vote, and many, many Palestinians have never voted in their life because the last elections were so long ago,” he said. “And this is an opportunity for them to express themselves democratically.”

He added that he expressed concerns about a Palestinian activist who died in the custody of Palestinian security forces this week.

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