OTTAWA – Canada and Israel are about to complete a number of defence co-operation agreements that will significantly tighten military bonds between the two countries as tensions grow over Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
And Defence Minister Peter MacKay refused Wednesday to rule out a mutual-defence agreement that would oblige Canada to come to Israel’s defence should the latter be attacked.
Appearing together at a media conference in Ottawa on Wednesday, Mr. MacKay and his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak said they anticipate negotiations will be completed by the end of the year.
“Israel needs strong, reliable partners, which Canada is certainly one,” Mr. MacKay said. “I would argue they could not find a more supportive country on the planet.”
The ministers said the agreements will cover a range of areas, including intelligence sharing, joint research and development, and military exchange programs.
“The steps that we’re taking today are in fact bringing our countries closer together,” Mr. MacKay said, “and they are also allowing us to further build on a strong foundation of co-operation that will build tangible results, not just to our two militaries, but to Canada and Israel more broadly.”
Mr. MacKay said the agreements did not relate to basing Canadian soldiers in Israel.
“The defence co-operation details will be disclosed when we sign,” he said.
War between Israel and Iran has become a very real possibility since the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, released a report last week that laid out the most details yet of Iran’s alleged efforts to build a nuclear arsenal.
Neither Mr. Barak nor Mr. MacKay would talk specifically about military action against Iran, saying world leaders are in the process of deciding the appropriate response.
But they also identified Iran as the greatest threat to global stability, and continued to hint at the possibility of military action.
“We said all along the way that we recommend to all friends around the world not to remove any option off the table,” Mr. Barak said. “And I’m glad to notice that many leaders in the world recently just repeating this very phrase.”
While the Conservative government has been criticized for tacking a strongly pro-Israel policy since taking power, Mr. Barak said his country appreciates all of Canada’s support.
“Israel and Canada are very good friends,” he said. “We highly appreciate the support we get from the Canadian government and people on many issues. And we are proud of the deepening and strengthening of the defence relationship that we have developed.”