WASHINGTON – In an interview with The Jerusalem Post Sunday, Canadian Foreign
Minister John Baird sharply criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan’s statements equating Zionism with a crime against
“These remarks, we deplore them, and they’re incredibly
unhelpful to the situation in the region,” Baird told the Post ahead of his
address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy
During a speech on Wednesday in Vienna, Erdogan said that
“just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become necessary to
view Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.”
“How many Islamic states
are there? There’s only one Jewish state,” Baird said.
“I think events in
the middle of the last century compel humanity to make sure there is a Jewish
homeland, a sanctuary and today a country with peace and security.”
also warned that the Palestinian Authority would stand to lose a significant
amount of aid from Canada should Fatah join with Hamas in a national unity
government, as is currently being discussed.
“If Hamas were to come into
a government of the Palestinian Authority, that is a red line for us,” Baird
“We’re not going to be partnering with and funding an international
terrorism group. It’s a non-starter.”
His comments come after Israeli
Ambassador to the US Michael Oren urged the Palestinian Authority leadership not
to take such a step, at AIPAC’s opening conference panel Sunday
Baird also has been campaigning among his European counterparts
to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which would have
consequences for the Lebanese militant group’s funding.
incidents can happen right inside the European Union by Hezbollah, that compels
civilized people everywhere to act,” Baird said, referencing the killing of five
Israeli tourists and a local bus driver in a bombing in Bulgaria this summer
that the local authorities have blamed on the Lebanese group.
to call it for what it is. No moral relativism,” he declared.
saying, ‘Well the left hand gives out social services and the right hand is an
international terrorist organization.’ It’s all attached to the same body and
the same head.”
Canada, he noted, recently designated the Iranian
Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrrorist group and taken other strong actions
against Tehran, which is suspected of working on a nuclear weapons
Earlier this week, the six world powers known as the P5+1
offered Iran some sanctions relief in exchange for certain concessions on its
uranium enrichment efforts.
“Would I say I was optimistic on the P5+1?
No,” Baird said. “But I think it is well worth continuing to take every
diplomatic measure possible.”
Baird expanded on Iran sanctions at a
round-table discussion Sunday evening at the AIPAC conference with former
Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini. Though he expressed doubts about
sanctions prompting a change in Iran’s political leadership, he added there is
“no doubt sanctions have had a real impact on the economy.”
foreign minister also said that “Iran’s regime is the greatest threat to
international peace and security,” adding, “We will not back down on sanctions
and pressure on Iran.”
In addition to stressing the importance of
continuing with diplomacy during his Post interview, Baird seemed to warn
against the consequences of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear
“Obviously we don’t want to see Israel have to do that,” he
“There are real concerns: On one night with one strike could you
accomplish it, and then what would happen the next morning?” Making a joking
reference to the push-back Canada has received from some quarters for its
unequivocal support for Israel at the UN, Baird said, “Some people think they’re
Canada’s government voted last year against the PA’s bid for
statehood at the United Nations. During the AIPAC panel, Baird said that a legal
move by the PA to pursue judicial action against Israel at the International
Criminal Court would “certainly have consequences” when it comes to
He did not offer the specifics for such a scenario. Canada is
providing a five-year aid package to the PA totaling $300 million. The funds are
slated to end in March, but $60-70 million was not spent and for now will
continue to flow to the Palestinians, according to Baird.
minister spoke warmly about his personal travels to Israel and the relationship
between Ottawa and Jerusalem. He told the Post that Canadian-Israeli relations
were “by a factor of 10, at a high water mark.”
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