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Canada abstains on Palestine recognition at UN

Country will recognize the State of Palestine ‘at the time most conducive to lasting peace’
Canada has abstained from another United Nations vote aimed at formally recognizing Palestine, while opening the door to supporting statehood before the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, May 9, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Canada abstained from another United Nations vote Friday aimed at formally recognizing Palestine, while opening the door to supporting statehood before the end of the current conflict.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it’s part of Canada’s efforts to stop the Israeli government from blocking an eventual Palestinian state.

“Our long-standing position (was) that you could only recognize the State of Palestine as an outcome at the end of a process leading to a two-state solution,” he told reporters in West Kelowna, B.C.

“We now recognize that it may happen sooner than at the end of the process, as a way of pushing toward that two-state solution.”

The UN General Assembly voted by a wide margin Friday morning to grant the Palestinian delegation more procedural rights in UN forums, and ask the Security Council to reconsider blocking Palestine from full status as a member state.

Canada was among 25 countries to abstain, and Trudeau said this is a deliberate change from Canada’s stance of voting against most motions that target Israel. Ottawa has previously deemed these to be one-sided motions that hinder peace talks.

“The Israeli government under Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu has unacceptably closed the door on any path toward a two-state solution and we disagree with that fundamentally,” Trudeau said, in explaining his rationale.

He reiterated positions Canada has taken for months on the conflict, including the need for Hamas to surrender its hostages and stop fighting, and for Israel to stop limiting humanitarian aid due to “famine conditions that are quickly developing and the horrific loss of life.”

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada wrote that it will recognize the State of Palestine “at the time most conducive to lasting peace,” adding that this isn’t necessarily after a final peace accord with Israel, and that peace talks “cannot delay the creation of a Palestinian state.”

The Palestinian delegation in Ottawa wrote in a press release that the shift is “a positive step forward” but argued a full recognition would better reflect Canada’s aspirations for peace in the region. Israel’s ambassador in Ottawa argued that full UN membership for Palestine would reward Hamas.

Canada has also joined the European Union in condemning two arson attacks by Israeli settlers in the occupied area of eastern Jerusalem on the local building used by UNRWA, a UN agency supporting Palestinians.

Israel has accused UNRWA of links to terrorism, which led Western countries to suspend or freeze funding, though an independent probe found Israel had not provided evidence for its claims. The statement notes “the services UNRWA provides in Gaza and across the region are essential,” and it calls on Israel to ensure the safety of UN staff and premises.

Despite that concern, Canada has yet to follow through on a promise three months ago to sanction violent West Bank settlers, a move taken by the U.S. and the U.K. months ago.

Instead, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly applied sanctions to four men in Iran whom Ottawa accused of providing military training and resources to help bolster Hamas. Those listed are members of the militant group, or of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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