Canada does not accept the premise of South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice which accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
Israel rejected as false the accusations brought by South Africa at the ICJ, the U.N.'s top court. Trudeau, pressed by reporters, stressed Canada was a strong backer of the court.
But he added: "Our wholehearted support of the ICJ and its processes does not mean that we support the premise of the case brought forward by South Africa".
The United States says the South African case is meritless. Later, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly reiterated Trudeau's comments in a statement.
Members of Trudeau's ruling Liberal Party, which includes Jewish and Muslim legislators, have taken different positions regarding the Gaza campaign.
Trudeau has consistently said Israel has the right to defend itself after the deadly rampage by militants of Gaza's ruling Hamas group into Israel on Oct. 7.
But as the civilian toll mounts, he has gradually shifted his tone, and last month said Israel's close friends are worried the Gaza campaign is endangering the country's long-term safety.
"Canada remains deeply concerned by the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and ongoing risks to all Palestinian civilians," Joly said.
Canada's opposition Conservative Party, which has a commanding lead in the polls, accused Trudeau of "sinister and hypocritical" double speak on the issue.
"He sends out some of his MPs to claim that they support calling Israel genocidal when they're talking to one group of voters. And then he sends out another group to say that they're against calling Israel genocidal," Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Reporting by David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer