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Harper makes impassioned UN speech to court Security Council votes

In Canada on September 23, 2010 at 20:18

UNITED NATIONS — Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented Canada as a team player as he made an impassioned case Thursday for Canada’s election to the United Nations Security Council — while also telling world leaders that Canadian interests include protecting "Canada’s Arctic."

With the Security Council election just weeks away, Harper was in full international-campaign mode as he called on the other 191 countries of the UN General Assembly to back Canada’s candidacy.

"Allow me to say one thing," he said after delineating Canada’s worldwide efforts to advance peace and development, and presenting Canada as a respecter of international law. "This assembly should know that Canada is eligible to serve on the Security Council."

The 15-member body is the UN’s most powerful, imbued with the ability to discipline recalcitrant countries through sanctions and military force.

Canada, Germany and Portugal are competing for two seats reserved for western powers throughout 2011-12.

Harper declared that Canada was "ready to serve" and, if elected, would "strive to further" the ideals of peace and justice that he said the UN and Canadians share.

But Harper also had a second message for the world body — one that directly speaks to one of the five permanent Security Council members: Russia.

He delivered it obliquely — as he spoke of the need for an "enlightened sovereignty" in which countries take others into consideration when they pursue what they deem to be their self-interest.

"As we tend to our own affairs in, for example, the protection of Canada’s Arctic, or the promotion of our trade, or the pursuit of our values, Canada shall be guided by the same advice," Harper said.

Harper’s mention of Canadian Arctic policy comes amid increasingly vocal — some say aggressive — Russian claims to the region, where the United States, Norway and Denmark also have claims.

While Harper couched Canada’s territorial declaration as part of a wider pledge of inclusiveness if Canada is elected to the Security Council, the very mention of the world "Arctic" will not have gone unnoticed by the Russian delegation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to deliver Russia’s General Assembly address Friday.

A spokesman for the Russian mission to the UN said officials would be looking at Harper’s speech more closely, but had no immediate comment.

Harper was to return to Canada later Thursday after meeting privately with several other leaders — notably Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, president of Israel, as well as the king of Jordan, Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein.

Aides said that in meeting separately with Abbas and Peres, Harper sought to echo the goals of the peace process, which is primarily led by the Americans.

At the meeting with Peres, Harper also commented on a UN Human Rights Council report released Wednesday that concluded Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla May 31 violated international humanitarian law.

"The PM noted his disappointment with the unbalanced . . . report," said Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s chief spokesman.

He said Harper and Abbas discussed "support that Canada has provided the Palestinian Authority to help building institutions and assisting in the training of security forces."

In Ottawa, the Liberal foreign affairs critic said he thought Harper had made a good case for Canada getting a seat on the Security Council.

"I think the case for Canada is very, very strong," Bob Rae told reporters, crediting Harper with steering clear of partisanship and emphasizing Canada’s solid 65-year commitment to the United Nations.

Harper’s speech before the UN’s annual summit is only his second since he addressed the chamber in 2006 — the year he became prime minister.

It comes just two days after he addressed the UN’s three-day development conference, which wrapped up Wednesday.

Cynics have said Harper is turning up twice in one week out of concern Canada could, for the first time, fail to maintain its record of winning election to the Security Council once a decade since the UN was launched in 1945.

Indeed, in his speech, Harper highlighted measures that would be expected to resonate with developing countries, which make up a significant proportion of the assembly.

In particular, he spoke of Canadian increases in aid to Africa and beyond, and also of Canadian contributions to efforts to improve the health of mothers and children, and combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

"We did these things for one simple reason," Harper said. "To alleviate the suffering and, indeed, save the lives of people all over the world, who are among the millions afflicted with these grave and debilitating diseases."

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

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