Canadian FM heading to Mideast to try to revive peace talks
THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 25, 2006
Canada's foreign minister said he will head to the Middle East in the New Year to try to revive peace talks in the region.
"I would love to, in some fashion, be able to facilitate a coming together and a discussion," Peter MacKay told CTV in a report broadcast Sunday. MacKay said he was not trying to "set unreal expectations - but I think we have to constantly try."
His announcement comes at a time when a roughly month-old ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians is holding, albeit tenuously, as Gaza militants have fired more than 50 homemade rockets into Israel since the agreement was reached.
Earlier this month, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in calling for an immediate return to the stalled roadmap to peace, warned that tensions in the Middle East were "near the breaking point" and said the Israelis and Palestinians were equally responsible for fueling the conflict.
MacKay said he also hopes to restart talks on settling the refugee status of hundreds of Palestinians in nearby Arab countries, many of whom fled Iraq as violence there escalated following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
"We hope to, in some way, be able to reconstitute that discussion and perhaps find a niche where Canada can make a contribution" to the refugee problem, said MacKay.
MacKay also said he plans to visit China in an effort to ease recent tension between Ottawa and Beijing. Canada's aggressive push for the release of Huseyin Celil, a Chinese-Canadian being imprisoned by China for alleged terrorism links, has angered Chinese officials, as did Canada's granting of honorary citizenship to the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama.
"We are going to have frank, upfront discussions about human rights issues, but of course keeping in mind the important trade and human relations that we have developed over the years," said MacKay.