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Baird offers Canada’s support of Israel-Palestine peace talks

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird takes part at a panel discussion during the Herziliya Conference. Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012, in Herzliya, Israel.

Dan Balilty/AP

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister has spoken to senior Palestinian and Israeli officials to offer his support in efforts to bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

John Baird's office says he placed phone calls on Sunday to his counterpart in the Palestinian Authority, Riyad al-Malki, and Israel's chief negotiator with the Palestinians, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

He commended both countries for agreeing to meet in Washington in the coming days and weeks.

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"Negotiations will take strength, courage and compromise but in the end, peace is worth traveling this difficult road," Baird tweeted Sunday afternoon after speaking to both sides.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that the two sides had reached an agreement that establishes a basis for resuming negotiations, but cautioned the details are still being worked out.

A government official says Mr. Baird told Ms. Livni on Sunday that Israel would have to make hard compromises and that the pressure would be on the Israelis going forward.

The official says Mr. Baird's message to Mr. Malki was that this is an opportunity that shouldn't be allowed to slip away.

"This was an opportunity that we should not lose," the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Baird told the Palestinian foreign minister.

On Sunday, Palestinian officials made it clear there is no clear path to a resumption of talks.

They said their key demand remains: Ahead of any talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must accept Israel's pre-1967 frontier as the starting point for drawing the border of a future state of Palestine.

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Palestinian sources also indicated that a resumption of talks is not a done deal, saying negotiators for the two nations would have to hold more talks about starting negotiations.

Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing allies were adamant that Israel would not budge on the issue of 1967 borders, and Mr. Netanyahu appeared to be trying to lower expectations about any future negotiations.

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