World
Feds consider next move against Palestinian Authority

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird addresses the United Nations General Assembly at UN Headquarters, in New York, November 29, 2012.

Credits: REUTERS/Chip East

MARK DUNN | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - Canada is reviewing its relationship with the Palestinians before it decides how to retaliate after the United Nations voted overwhelmingly to give new status to the Palestinian Authority.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called a huddle of foreign diplomats Friday to discuss his irritated government's response to events Thursday in New York.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said there would be "consequences" if the Palestinians were granted "non-member observer state" status at the international body without having negotiated a peace accord with Israel.

The upgrade in status gives the Palestinians access to bodies like the International Criminal Court - which the Palestinians could ask to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes.

Canadian diplomats from the Middle East, New York and Geneva have been temporarily recalled to Ottawa to brief Baird before the government announces its next steps.

"I want to get a sense from the diplomats what they see on the ground, how they see things going, and how we can effectively respond to what could be a new reality," he said in a televised interview.

That includes a review of the "full range" of Canada's bilateral relationship with the Palestinian Authority, he said.

The cornerstone of that association is the $300 million over five years the government committed in 2007 to assist with peace and security.

That money dries up at the end of March and the feds haven't said whether the funding will be extended, scaled back or cut altogether.

"We're not obviously looking at breaking off relations with the Palestinian Authority," Baird said, a sign the government won't close its diplomatic post in the region or remove the Palestinian Authority's representative in Canada anytime soon.

Both the NDP and Liberals have called on Harper not to punish the Palestinians because of fears it could further destabilize the region and damage what they say is Canada's already tattered image.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Conservative government has isolated Canada with its vehement opposition to the UN resolution and its use of "threats and ultimatums" to discourage the vote.

"Who's going to listen to Minister Baird right now after the threats that were levelled at the Palestinian Authority?" he asked.

"We're no longer a player amongst many in the world community."

Middle East watchers warn sanctions could weaken Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and give rise to Hamas, the terrorist group responsible for launching hundreds of rockets at Israel in November.

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