John Baird Talks Israel-Hamas Ceasefire, Says He's 'Cautiously Optimistic'

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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 20, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand) | CP

OTTAWA - There's nothing complicated about the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday as he expressed cautious hope for a lasting truce in the region.

Now is not the time for moral relativism between a terrorist organization — Hamas — and a democracy trying to defend itself, Baird said outside the House of Commons shortly after the ceasefire was declared.

"It's not a complex issue," he said. "You have a terrorist group launching rockets against Israel."

Stressing that the broader question of peace in the Middle East was far more complicated, Baird differentiated between Hamas and the Palestinian people and the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank.

"The Palestinian question is a larger one, but the issue before us is a series of rocket attacks numbering over 1,000, over the course of 10 days, two weeks," he said.

"We are cautiously optimistic about the events in recent hours."

Baird also welcomed the efforts of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who helped broker the deal.

"We are pleased that this new government in Egypt has accepted its responsibilities as a major player in the region," he said.

The Harper government has repeatedly said it stands with Israel in the conflict.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae also welcomed the ceasefire, saying it would only be effective if there was an end to all terrorist attacks from Gaza into Israel.

"We hope this is the first step on the path towards a comprehensive peace," Rae said in a statement.

He also offered condolences to the families of civilians who have been killed and injured in the latest conflict.

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