Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s meeting with an Israeli minister in annexed Arab East Jerusalem this week was a “slap in the face” to Palestinians, a Palestinian official said Friday.
Baird met Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, lead peace negotiator in Israel’s cabinet, at her office in east Jerusalem on Tuesday, in a move normally avoided by visiting diplomats because it could be seen as legitimizing Israel’s controversial annexation.
“The visit is a slap in the face to the Palestinian people,” former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath wrote in a commentary published by Canada’s daily Globe and Mail.
Shaath, a Fatah Central Committee member in charge of international relations, called Baird’s visit an “unprecedented recognition of the illegal Israeli annexation of Palestinians’ occupied capital,” adding that it undermines US efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Shaath said the “unprecedented offense” would cause “severe” damage to Canada’s relations with the Palestinians, Arab countries and those committed to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict.
In a letter to Baird obtained by AFP, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said “diplomatic recognition of the situation created by the attempted annexation of our capital is a flagrant violation of international law.”
“It also severely undermines current US efforts,” he added.
“Canada is under a clear obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War… a state which knowingly assists another state in the commission of an internationally wrongful act bears responsibility for the violation.”
Erakat stressed that “Israel’s attempted annexation of occupied East Jerusalem is a blatant breach of international humanitarian law and, more specifically, the laws and customs of war.”
Baird’s meeting with Israeli officials “has the effect of attempting to legitimize the illegal situation on the ground and may be deemed as aiding, abetting or otherwise assisting illegal Israeli policies,” Erakat added.
He said Canada’s actions were “tantamount to complicity in ongoing Israeli violations of the international laws of war.”
Canada is one of Israel’s staunchest allies and was one of the few countries that opposed a successful Palestinian bid for upgraded status at the United Nations late last year.
Israel captured East Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
The Jewish state considers all of Jerusalem its “eternal, indivisible” capital, but the Palestinians want the eastern sector as capital of their future state.