September 27, 2012
Harper jumps into Middle East politics
By David Akin, Parliamentary Bureau Chief
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Iran represents "a clear and present danger" to all of the world's nations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a speech to a high-powered audience here Thursday night that included former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
Kissinger, in fact, introduced Harper after Harper received the 2012 "World Statesman" award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a group that advocates for human rights and religious freedom.
The ceremony was held at the swanky Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan at a black-tie dinner for 800 people.
But while Harper condemned the "truly malevolent ideology" of the Iranian regime, he didn't go as far as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did when Netanyahu spoke to the United Nations General Assembly a few hours earlier.
Netanyahu said Iran's uranium enrichment facilities should be "targeted" for a military strike if Iran doesn't shut down its nuclear weapons development program.
Harper took a view that was closer to U.S. President Barack Obama's, saying Canada "simply contends that the international community must do more to further pressure and isolate this regime."
Harper said Iran isn't only a danger to Israel, but represents a global threat.
"Those who single out the Jewish people as a target of racial and religious bigotry will inevitably be a threat to all of us," Harper said. "I say these things not to counsel any particular action...and certainly not to advocate war."
Harper and Netanyahu will have a one-on-one meeting Friday morning here to assess the situation in the Middle East.
Harper also said that while the world appears to be more democratic than ever, those democracies may also be less secure.
"What appears to be a hopeful spring for democracy quickly becomes an angry summer of populism," Harper said, referring to the Arab Spring uprisings of last year in North Africa and the Middle East. "Old resentments seem to come back to life, energizing groups who advocate terror."
Earlier in the day, Harper told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel's security must be guaranteed as part of any peace process for the region.
Harper and Abbas met here minutes after Abbas delivered a fiery speech to the UN's General Assembly in which he referred to "terrorist militias of Israeli settlers" and the "racist Israeli settlement of Palestine."
Abbas also accused Israel of conducting "a campaign of ethnic cleansing."
Israel's Netanyahu, speaking from the same podium minutes after Abbas, called Abbas' remarks "libelous."
Harper told Abbas that "Canada supports a two-state solution in which a Jewish state can thrive in peace and security alongside a Palestinian one," according to an account of the closed-door meeting provided by the Prime Minister's Office.
In his evening speech, Harper said Canada wants to be a good world citizen that understands the point of view of others and acts with its partners for humanity's greater good.
"That is, of course, not the same thing as trying to court every dictator with a vote at the United Nations or just going along with every international consensus, no matter how self-evidently wrong-headed," Harper said.
"Canadians are proud, fiercely proud, of the reputation we have established for both a competitive economy and a compassionate society," Harper said.
Harper also called the U.S. "the best neighbour any nation could possibly have."