At the Three Amigos conference in Guadalajara, Stephen Harper gave Jake Tapper of ABC News a broad-ranging interview that touched on trade, health-care, H1N1, and Afghanistan. The interview also contained the first reported public statements by Harper on Honduras (at least that I’ve seen); I reproduce them here in full:
Tapper: There has been some criticism about the United States for not doing enough in Honduras to return President Zelaya. Do you have thoughts on that?
Harper: Well, as I said in our press conference here, I find this quite hypocritical. I would be quite—if I were an American I would be quite annoyed by that kind of question because the United States has been accused of—so regularly in my lifetime, particularly in our hemisphere – of meddling and interfering in the affairs of others.
Now we have a problem in Honduras and we have some people jumping up and demanding the United States intervene and meddle.
I think the approach taken by the American administration is the correct one. First of all, they’ve articulated the same values that Canada, Mexico and others have articulated and that is we need to see democracy and the rule of law restored in Honduras.
As you know, there’s two sides to that issue. The democratically elected government should be restored and that government should be committed to respecting the constitutional rules of that country.
I think we all agree with that. President Arias of Costa Rica with the Organization of the American States is leading mediated efforts. Canada and Mexico are directly involved in that mediation effort. We have been highly supported by the Untied States in the mediation effort.
The United States views are not secret. It has been pushing to see the same outcomes we’re trying to see and I think this is the appropriate approach for the United States is to be very forceful and very helpful and to work with others to make sure democratic norms are upheld in our hemisphere.
Harper’s seemingly unequivocal support for the American position is disappointing but predictable. But there’s enough equivocation between the lines to make me suspect that the Canadian delegation is having a significant positive impact on the negotiations. Harper makes two basic points: (1) don’t meddle—which means, don’t try to impose a solution from the outside (namely the restoration of Zelaya), but instead help Hondurans to achieve an internally negotiated settlement; and (2) the goal is the restoration of constitutional democracy—a principle that Zelaya violated at least as much as the army. I suspect that’s what Harper’s hinting at when he says “there’s two sides to that issue;” at least, I can’t think of another, better, plausible explanation for that statement.
In short, while the Canadian government’s initial response to the Zelaya ouster was hasty and ill-considered, it seems as though the government has moved towards a much more balanced and appropriate position, and there is reason to believe—or at least hope—that it is using its position as a (dare I say) honest broker to shape negotiations over the future of Honduras. That strikes me as a good thing.