RAMALLAH, West Bank – 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. "I was in Mike Harris' cabinet for four years. I got a lot worse," Bard told reporters afterward.
The Palestinian protesters also held signs reading: "Baird, you are not welcome in Palestine" and "Baird, Jerusalem is our capital."
"We take a strong position supporting the only liberal and democratic state in the region," Baird said. "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."
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 included "candid and frank exchanges on areas where we differ in opinion."
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 its settlement building. Canada opposes the Palestinians' unilateral attempts to reach statehood as well as its recent bid to pursue war crime charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Alluding to the International Criminal Court, 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."
Baird later met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who thanked Canada for its support. Baird said the two would discuss the "deeply regrettable decision" by the Palestinians to join the international court as well as our "common efforts to fight terrorism and extremism."