Canadian government officials denied that Canada made an offer, or had any secret plans to take in Palestinian refugees, despite reports last week that the foreign minister had said it would accept the refugees, reported the Daily Star newspaper on Tuesday.
A spokesperson at the foreign affairs ministry confirmed that Canada would do whatever it could to help, but that "no offer had been made and there was no other form of unilateral action planned."
“If both parties ask Canada to help, we will assist in any way we can,” said spokesperson Patrick Riel, insisting that the help would come only in the form of implementing a peace agreement, according to the paper.
The Toronto star newspaper last Wednesday quoted the foreign affairs ministry as saying that Canada was “prepared to receive refugees,” and to “contribute to an international fund to assist with resettlement in support of a peace agreement.”
The offer was allegedly made during telephone calls involving foreign minister John Manley, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States as part of President Clinton’s last-ditch Middle East peace proposal.
On Thursday, however, Manley’s office contradicted the reports, said the paper.
While it confirmed that the minister had indeed held a series of talks with Prime Minister Jean Chretien, as well as with officials in the US and the Middle East about Canada’s role in the process, Ottawa had not made any offer.
“Since Christmas, the minister has reiterated Canada’s position of our long-standing policy,” said Riel. “The issue of the Palestinian refugees must be solved in the context of a comprehensive peace settlement.
“We encourage the parties to look for creative solutions. We’re ready to help both parties reach a solution but Canada has no secret plan to resettle the Palestinian refugees.”
Meanwhile, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud warned on Monday that the Middle East region could spiral into a “never-ending conflict” if Israel refused to let Palestinian refugees return to their homes, said the paper.
In a New Year’s address to foreign diplomats, Lahoud said “today, we attest that the utter failure of ‘partial arrangements’ is only complicating matters. This is why we are reassessing the peace process."
“Peace will remain elusive if Israel proceeds to occupy Arab land and evade responsibility for the plight of the Palestinian refugees.”
Lahoud said that “failing to address the ‘right of return’ and continuing to negate the aspirations of Palestinians to return to their homeland will result in a never-ending conflict,” according to the paper.
He added: “Once again, Lebanon is compelled to sound the alarm for all to hear, amid dubious maneuvers to resettle the Palestinian refugees in their ‘host’ countries.” -- Albawaba.com