Palestinians hurl eggs at Canadian foreign minister's convoy

AP News
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Posted: Jan 18, 2015 2:42 PM
Palestinians hurl eggs at Canadian foreign minister's convoy

JERUSALEM (AP) — Dozens of Palestinian protesters hurled eggs and shoes at the convoy of the visiting Canadian foreign minister Sunday in a show of defiance toward Canada's perceived pro-Israel stance.

John Baird was visiting Ramallah to meet Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki when demonstrators pelted his convoy.

The Palestinian protesters also held signs reading: "Baird, you are not welcome in Palestine" and "Baird, Jerusalem is our capital."

Baird later brushed off the protest, saying "I was in Mike Harris' cabinet for four years. I got a lot worse."

Baird served from 1999-2002 as Minister of Community and Social Services in conservative Ontario Premier Mike Harris' government, implementing controversial policies to cut welfare rolls and crack down on fraud.

Baird defended his government's support for Israel, calling it "the only liberal and democratic state in the region."

Canada has been one of only a few Western countries to stand by Israel as it has come under fierce international criticism over deadlocked negotiations with the Palestinians, the recent Gaza war and settlement building.

Canada opposes the Palestinians' attempts to reach statehood without direct negotiations with Israel as well as their recent bid to pursue war crimes charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

"We take the view that a peace process, progress is best made at the negotiating table and not through unilateral actions on the other side. We're proud of that position, we believe it's the best one and don't apologize for it," Baird said.

Activists from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party earlier had called for a boycott of Baird because of Canada's Middle East policies.

"This person backs up the Zionist movement," protester Abdullah Abu-Rahmeh said. "This person diminishes the rights of our people, takes part and backs up building of settlements. We tell him that he's not welcome."

Baird is in the region for five days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

In a statement, Baird described his meeting with Malki as "cordial and constructive" and said it included "candid and frank exchanges on areas where we differ in opinion."

Alluding to the ICC, Baird said he asked Malki to "strongly reconsider the consequences of moving forward with any action that may be counterproductive to a negotiated solution" with Israel.

"A desire for a future of peace, prosperity, stability and security for both Palestinians and Israelis must drive both parties toward direct negotiations," he said. "Today, we reaffirmed our will to work together on these matters at this crucial time."

In a later meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Baird suggested there was a double-standard at work at the ICC, and that Palestinian militant groups would not be held accountable for attacks on Israel.

"In the current situation, terrorist organizations are not held accountable, and have a win-win situation — whether by terrorizing Israel's citizens, or making claims against Israel when it defends its citizens. It is for the international law to clarify what a state can do in order to defend its people from terrorism."