Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PMs disagree on Israeli settlements

JERUSALEM—Canada and Israel have differences of opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite their cozy relationship, both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu said today.
The two countries part ways on the issue of Israeli settlements in disputed territory, “I guarantee you that’s the case,” Netanyahu told a news conference with Harper at his office in Jerusalem.

Harper, meantime, chided the media for expecting him to publicly single out Israel for criticism on its stance on the territories, saying he was asked to do so both while on the West Bank and in Israel.
“The one lesson I think we have learned is that when somebody is a minority, particularly a small minority in the world, one goes out of one’s way to embrace them, not to single them out for criticism,” Harper said.
“That’s a fundamental Canadian ethic.”
Also today, Harper and Netanyahu signed a wide-ranging set of bilateral goals and agreed to expand a free trade pact during their meeting in Jerusalem.
The two leaders said free trade negotiations would be held in Israel from Feb. 3-9 to expand and modernize the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement initially signed on Jan.1, 1997.
The aim of the new round of talks is to reduce technical barriers to trade, more quickly resolve market access irritants, and create new opportunities for Canadian agriculture, agri-food, and fish and seafood companies in the Israeli market, Harper said.
“An expanded and modernized trade agreement with Israel will generate more jobs and economic growth at home and in Israel while strengthening the close friendship that both countries enjoy,” he reasoned.
The two leaders also agreed today to a lengthy list of common interests to pursue under what’s called the Strategic Partnership memorandum of understanding.
The measures include growth in security and intelligence co-operation, enhanced defence and security relations, more business links, and closer academic ties.
The memorandum the two leaders signed in Netanyahu’s office also covers innovation, energy, international aid, and human rights.
The goal is to build on bilateral merchandise trade between the two countries, which the Prime Minister’s Office says was worth $1.41 billion in 2012.

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