Canada’s foreign affairs minister said she shared her “deep concern” about the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza during her first discussion with her new Israeli counterpart.
Mélanie Joly’s office said in a news release Thursday that she also used the conversation to highlight Canada’s diplomatic efforts to avoid further escalation of the war in the region.
Global Affairs Canada (GAC) said the minister “emphasized that the protection of civilians is paramount, including ensuring they have access to life-saving humanitarian aid” during the call with Israel Katz, Israel’s new minister of foreign affairs.
At the same time, GAC said, Joly reaffirmed Canada’s support for Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself in accordance with international law.
“She reiterated Canada’s unequivocal condemnation of Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on October 7, 2023, its unacceptable treatment of hostages and its heinous use of sexual and gender-based violence as a tactic of war,” GAC wrote. “She reaffirmed Canada’s continued calls for the immediate release of all hostages and its readiness to support investigations into acts of sexual and gender-based violence committed on October 7.”
Her call followed comments last month from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing concern about the death toll among Gazans. Trudeau, reports The Canadian Press, has consistently given a similar response about Israel’s right to defend itself, but has urged Israel to be cautious of the impact on civilians.
Joly and her Israeli counterpart Wednesday discussed the threat posed by Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups to Israel and its regional security, Global Affairs said. Joly underscored Canada’s diplomatic efforts to avoid the conflict and the humanitarian crisis from worsening in the region.
Joly said she thanked Katz for his government’s co-operation to evacuate Canadians, permanent residents and their family members from Gaza.
“She reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace and security, with dignity and without fear,” according to the release.
The Israeli government opposes the notion of a two-state solution to the conflict, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Talks are underway between Israel and Hamas, with Qatar as a key mediator, that are aimed at stopping the hostilities between Israel and Hamas in exchange for a hostage release.
Israel declared war following Hamas’s surprise attacks on civilians in southern Israel on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,200 people in Israel and resulted in the abduction of 250 others. The Associated Press reports that more than 25,000 Palestinians have died in the weeks since the war began, and about 85 per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced, including many children, Hamas officials and international aid groups say.
While Israel says it is fighting in self-defence and for the return of hostages it believes are still being held by Hamas, the government faces charges that it is committing genocide at the UN world court at The Hague, The Associated Press reports. The world court plans to issue a decision Friday on South Africa’s request for an interim order in the case, which would include telling Israel to stop its offensive.
Ambassador Iddo Moed, Israel’s envoy to Canada, has recently joined calls for the federal government to clearly state its position on the issue, The Canadian Press reported.
Trudeau recently told reporters that Canada’s support for the court does not mean it supports the “premise” of South Africa’s case, and would not say whether Canada agrees with or rejects South Africa’s stance. Joly said that the bar to prove genocide is quite high.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press