Last updated: 6 April, 2013

Canada’s minister holds positive talks with Palestinians

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird held what he termed “positive” talks with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Saturday despite their differences.

Baird, on a four-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, met with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and foreign minister Riyad al-Malki.

The Canadian minister, whose country is a close ally of Israel and opposed the Palestinians’ bid to raises their UN status, told reporters the talks were “very positive” even if differences were raised, without elaborating.

Referring to plans by US Secretary of State John Kerry to head to the region next week, Baird said “we should be realistic, but we do appreciate his shuttle diplomacy following President (Barack) Obama’s visit” last month.

“We are very keen obviously to see a successful resolution of all the outstanding issues… I am very pleased that Secretary Kerry is engaged personally on this important process.”

The State Department said on Wednesday that Kerry will return to Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories to build on a series of talks last month between American and regional leaders.

Expectations are growing that the US administration is ready to resume some kind of shuttle diplomacy to rekindle the moribund peace process, which has stalled since late 2010 amid bitter recriminations on both sides.

Baird also pointed to progress in bilateral cooperation in the education and private sectors as well as efforts to improve the living conditions of the Palestinians.

Malki, at the same press conference, also played down differences and said Canada was helping “in several areas towards building our state, especially in the fields of justice and security.”