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Harper and Hillary talk, as G-8 foreign affairs ministers' meeting opens with a focus on peace

Prime Minister Stephen Harper talked with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday before the G-8 Meeting in Gatineau

Prime Minister Stephen Harper talked with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday before the G-8 Meeting in Gatineau where foreign ministers are discussing nuclear proliferation, security, Afghanistan, the economy, and Haiti.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper put  the political policies of Iran and North Korea as at the centre of his concerns, urging a "heightened focus" on Tehran.

“Your meeting today does come, however, at a particularly difficult time in the international community’s dealings with the governments of Iran and North Korea," Harper said.  "Both are countries whose actions contravene their international obligations.  Both use violence and intimidation to deprive their own citizens of fundamental rights.  Both are serious threats to global security.  We urge North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks without preconditions.
“And we urge a heightened focus, and stronger coordinated action, including sanctions if necessary, on the Iranian regime.  Tehran must halt its nuclear activities and engage in peaceful dialogue.  There is much at stake.  If nuclear proliferation leads to the use of nuclear weapons, whether by states or non-state actors, then no matter where the bombs are set off, the catastrophe will be felt around the world.  Canada will continue to work closely with our G-8 partners as we confront these serious threats to our common security.
“You are discussing other situations that also affect global peace and security.  Let me just mention a few that, because of their deeply serious nature, should be foremost in our thoughts.  Afghanistan, for instance, and Haiti.  All of us have invested heavily, and at considerable cost in lives, in helping Afghanistan to build a peaceful and stable state that will never again be a haven for terrorists.  The Afghan government must continue to assume greater responsibility for its own security, while providing basic services and good governance as President Karzai promised in London.  We at this table must continue to provide support, while ensuring the Afghan government lives up to its commitments.
“Then there’s Haiti.  Here is an example of the important work that awaits the G-8 in the area of development.  You will be discussing the situation there later this morning.  Canada has taken very seriously its responsibility to alleviate suffering in Haiti.  While relief efforts in Haiti continue, our focus must continue to shift to long-term reconstruction.  We have a genuine opportunity to rebuild Haiti as a new and better country.  Tomorrow’s meeting in New York is an important milestone on the road to that goal.
“Another development opportunity for the G-8, a hugely important one in our view, is the historic opportunity to focus attention and resources on saving the lives of mothers and children in the developing world.  This initiative will be high on the agenda when G-8 Development Ministers meet in Halifax next month, and when leaders gather in Muskoka in June.
“Finally, if the G-8 is to remain credible, accountability is absolutely necessary.  Member nations must keep their commitments on economic pledges, on development and on security actions.  I look forward to a productive dialogue in Muskoka on strengthening accountability for G-8 initiatives.  As G-8 members, we must continue to accept the burden of our status in the world.
“Let me say that again: if the world’s richest and most powerful nations do not deal with the world’s hardest and most intractable problems, they simply will not be dealt with.  Your meeting today is a key forum for discussing the issues we face together and it is, of course, a critical step towards the leaders’ summit in June.

Harper opened his talk with the following statements:

“I am delighted to welcome you here to Canada, to Gatineau, for this meeting of G-8 foreign affairs ministers," Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the G-8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting.  "I wanted to speak to you personally about the importance I place on today’s discussions.  Less than two weeks ago, I met with the Sherpas of the G-20 countries.  In that meeting, we discussed the urgent need for members of the G-20 to follow through on their stimulus commitments this year, while preparing to reduce their dependency upon them in the future.  I hope that this overarching theme — recovery and new beginnings — will also inform the work of the G-8.
“The architecture of our global institutions has come through a period of intense, necessary changes to take on common economic challenges in which we all play a key role.  Of course, the G-8 remains the principal forum for advancing our common agenda of peace and security, as well as democracy and development.  This is critical work.  Indeed, progress made on economic issues at the G-20 table risks being undone if the world’s pressing security and development concerns are not addressed with equal vigour.  War and terrorism, piracy and failed states, international organized crime, poverty and underdevelopment: these are all enemies of the informed objectives we share, not only to ensure prosperity, but to build a better world.
“Your meeting today is therefore timely, coming as it does before the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April and the Review Conference on the Non Proliferation Treaty in New York in May.  And, with that in mind, let me just take note and congratulate our Russian and American friends on Friday’s U.S.-Russia agreement on the further reduction of their nuclear arsenals.  This should give us all hope that the future need not be an inevitable descent towards darkness.  I therefore also welcome Ambassador Cabactulan, the President-designate of the Review Conference, who is here today to exchange views with you on the challenges facing the Conference."

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