OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau told his Israeli counterparts that the building of settlements, evictions, demolitions in East Jerusalem should cease to ease tensions and prevent another round of violence in the region, he said in a virtual press conference Monday.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a five-day tour of the Middle East, Garneau said Canada supports a two-state solution to end the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But he said there are more pressing short-term issues, including avoiding any further flare-ups after a fragile ceasefire ended the latest round of fighting between Israel and Palestinians in May.
"At this point, our number 1 priority, our number 1 advice is that we need to lower the temperature," he said.
"The continued building of settlements, and the evictions and demolitions in East Jerusalem should cease, and so that was the message we carried, because we think that is potentially provocative."
Garneau said getting humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip is also a priority after the 11-day war that saw 230 Palestinians killed and many houses and other infrastructure destroyed.
"Gaza … was hit hard, not only with the loss of life, but also with the destruction of many homes, and also infrastructure that is essential to carry out the normal life," he said.
He said parties can start thinking about long-term solution after a "cooling-off period."
Twelve Israelis were also killed in the fighting, which was precipitated by clashes over Israeli plans to remove several families from Sheikh Jarrah, a predominantly Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
Garneau said he began his Middle East tour last week in Jordan, where he met with the country's prime minister and foreign affairs minister to "obtain their valuable insights on the challenges and opportunities in the region."
He then went to Israel to meet with new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid.
"We talked about strengthening co-operation in a number of areas, including research and development," he said.
Garneau's office said Canada is tripling its annual contribution to the Canada-Israel Agreement on Bilateral Cooperation in Industrial Research and Development to $3 million per year.
In his meeting with Orit Farkash-Hacohen, the Israeli minister of innovation, science and technology, the two ministers agreed to launch negotiations to modernize and expand the scope of the agreement and to establish a new mechanism to lead and promote their research and development collaboration, Garneau's office said.
Garneau ended his visit Monday with a trip to the West Bank, where he met the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, his prime minister and foreign affairs minister.
"I reaffirmed Canada's long-standing position that a two-state solution is the best path to comprehensive, just and lasting peace for both Israel and Palestinians," he said.
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on July 5, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press