The Palestinian Authority sent a harshly worded complaint Tuesday to Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird over the East Jerusalem venue for his recent meeting with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote Baird that he had contravened international law by meeting Livni in East Jerusalem.
Haaretz revealed Thursday that Baird had set a diplomatic precedent by meeting Livni in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which international law considers occupied territory. Most of Baird's colleagues in the Western diplomatic community decline to meet senior Israeli officials in East Jerusalem because they do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over that part of the city.
As quoted in the Arabic-language Ramallah-based daily Al-Ayyam, Erekat wrote Baird that the Palestinians are very concerned over the Canadian foreign minister's meeting with top Israeli officials in East Jerusalem and that "recognition of a situation in which an attempt is being made to annex our capital is an infraction of international law and damages the efforts of the American government to renew the peace process."
Erekat also said Canada has committed itself to honoring the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which it is a signatory. According to this convention, an occupying power is not allowed to settle its citizens in the occupied territory.
"A state that knowingly assists another state in the commission of an internationally wrongful act bears responsibility for the violation," the paper quoted Erekat's letter to Baird.
Erekat reportedly wrote Baird that his meeting with Livni in East Jerusalem was an attempt to legitimize an illegal situation and constitutes support for illegal Israeli policy" and that Canada was complicit with Israel's violation of international law. Erekat wrote that not only did Baird's actions hurt the Palestinians, they hurt the entire international community.
Following the report in Haaretz of Baird's East Jerusalem meeting, a number of media outlets in Canada have criticized him, stating that he had taken it upon himself to contravene longstanding Canadian policy.
Baird rejected the criticism in a press conference in London on Thursday. He said Canada supports both sides, and the question of where he has a cup of coffee with Livni signaled no change in Canadian foreign policy.
"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 okay, and you have a meeting on the other side of street and it's not," he said.