Bethlehem, 5 Jumadil Akhir 1434/14 April 2013 (MINA) – The PLO lodged an official complaint with Canada on Friday after its foreign minister attended a meeting with an Israeli leader in East Jerusalem.
John Baird broke a widely observed diplomatic taboo when he met with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni at her office in East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967.
Such meetings are normally avoided by visiting diplomats over concerns they could be seen as legitimizing Israel’s annexation of the city’s eastern sector, according to Ma’an reports monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA).
In the complaint, obtained by Ma’an, a senior PLO official blasted the move.
“Your recent meeting with Israeli officials in East Jerusalem 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,” Saeb Erekat wrote in the message to Canada’s representative office.
“As such, Canada’s actions are tantamount to complicity in ongoing Israeli violations of the international laws of war. … these violations are being (perpetrated) not only against the State of Palestine and the Palestinian people, but against the international community as a whole.”
The complaint also reminded Baird that under international norms, “a State which knowingly assists another State in the commission of an internationally wrongful act bears responsibility for the violation.”
Erekat, the PLO’s chief negotiator, warned that such actions could harm US peace efforts.
In London, Baird rejected criticism over the visit.
“I’m just not interested in getting into the semantic argument about whether you have a meeting with one person on one side of the street (and) it’s OK, and you have a meeting on the other side of street and it’s not,” he told reporters covering the G8 summit, according to the National Post newspaper.
“We’re focused on trying to have an impact on the difficult and serious challenges, that being security for Israelis, an end to the conflict and the legitimate aspirations for a state from those in the Palestinian side.”
Israel captured East Jerusalem during a 1967 war and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. It considers all of Jerusalem its “eternal, indivisible” capital.
A spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry praised Canada’s “courage and moral stance.”
“The Canadians have been making a name for themselves by speaking out on the international scene in a way which is all too rare,” Yigal Palmor said Thursday.
“There should be nothing unusual about meeting Israel’s justice minister in East Jerusalem (where the ministry is based). What is strange is that this is the exception,” he told AFP.
During his six-day visit to the region, Baird also visited troops in the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights, Syrian territory which Israel annexed in 1981 in another move never recognized abroad.
A senior official at the foreign ministry told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the Canadian embassy had advised Baird against both the East Jerusalem meeting and the Golan visit. Calls to the Canadian representative office in Ramallah were not immediately returned late Friday.
Canada is among 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.
In a commentary published by Canada’s daily Globe and Mail, former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath called Baird’s visit “a slap in the face to the Palestinian people.”
Shaath, a Fatah leader in charge of international relations, described the visit as 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, the Arab world and those committed to a two-state solution to the conflict. (T/P012/E1)
Miraj News Agency (MINA)