OTTAWA - Canada should try again for at a seat on the United Nations Security Council despite its historic loss in 2010, because it is a "global player," says the French ambassador to Canada.
Envoy Philippe Zeller said he's noticed that the Harper government has drifted away from engagement with the UN, but as one of the permanent five on the Security Council, France would value having Canada back at the table.
In October 2010, Canada lost to Portugal in a bid for a two-year council term. The defeat came after six successful campaigns for a seat over the previous six decades.
Analysts have variously attributed the defeat to the Harper government's controversial foreign policies in the Middle East and Africa, or to Europe closing ranks to support one of its own.
Zeller, who leaves Ottawa next week after a three and half years in Ottawa, said Canada and France see eye-to-eye on 90 per cent of issues, but on UN relations it has noticed that Canada under the Conservatives seems to have less time for the institution.
He cited Canada's withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and the Convention to Combat Desertification.
Zeller said all countries have to regularly review their foreign policies.
"But when it's such a question as to how to deal with desertification … well it's difficult to accept, to see a leader like Canada, countries that are known for having developed aid policy since the 1960s, to decide to go out. But we have to respect that."
He also suggested France has tried to nudge Canada to join or ratify other UN agreements, such as the Arms Trade Treaty or the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Zeller said Canada and France are great allies in other world bodies such as the G7, G20 and La Francophonie. He also said he has confidence that Canada will be a "good partner" in the fight against climate change as France prepares to host a major meeting in December on an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.
During French President Francois Hollande's state visit to Canada last fall, Harper asked that France keep Canada in the loop on the Paris meeting. As as a result, Zeller said, the French embassy has been giving monthly briefings to Environment Canada.
The ambassador said Canada is also a strong ally in the fight against spread of Islamic extremism.
If Canada returned to the Security Council as one of 10 rotating temporary members, it would serve as a valuable bridge to other countries, especially in Asia and Latin America, he said.
"When I see all the visits made by the trade minister, by the Governor General, by the prime minister himself in Asia for instance, I'm convinced that Canada is a global player."
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in the spring of 2013 that Canada had no plans to seek a Security Council seat, and his office won't discuss the matter further.
Harper has been accused of snubbing the General Assembly, but he spoke at the opening session in September 2014, his first such appearance in four years. France took note of Harper's largely upbeat appeal for support for his Maternal, Newborn Child Health development initiative, said Zeller.
Zeller also said France doesn't agree with Canada's strong support of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.
But he applauded Baird's recent visit to Ramallah despite fact protesters pelted his motorcade with eggs and shoes.
"Such a topic is so difficult," said Zeller. "But at least minister Baird had the courage to meet the Palestinians in their headquarters. It's so important."
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