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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, right, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are seen at the G8 summit in Deauville, France, May 26, 2011. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, right, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are seen at the G8 summit in Deauville, France, May 26, 2011. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)

In apparent reversal on Mideast, Baird backs Obama's 1967-border proposal Add to ...

Canada wants Israel to use its 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations with Palestinians seeking independence, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Wednesday, just days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper is said to have prevented such language from being included in a G8 statement on the matter.

Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill, Mr. Baird backed U.S. President Barack Obama.

"We support, obviously, that that solution has to be based on the '67 border, with mutually agreed upon swaps, as President Obama said," Mr. Baird said.

Although such a solution is widely accepted among the international community and the United Nations, the Israeli government has no desire to share Jerusalem with an independent Palestine. It has continued a process of moving Israeli settlers into Palestinian territory. When Mr. Obama affirmed his support for the 1967 border, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu roundly rejected it.

Politicians in North America have also steered clear of references to the 1967 borders, wary of upsetting the Israeli community. Mr. Harper, a staunch supporter of Israel, refused to support Mr. Obama's words previously, even though they reflected Canada's official position. As recently as last week, he stuck to the position at the G8 summit, diplomats said.

In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel fought Egypt, Jordan and Syria, capturing the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula and East Jerusalem. While the Sinai was eventually returned to Egypt, Israel has held onto the other territories.

Both the West Bank and Gaza are governed by the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority. East Jerusalem in particular is a major sticking point in negotiations.

Mr. Baird said his statement was not an about-face in Tory policy, but he appeared not to be familiar with Resolution 242, the 1967 UN declaration calling on Israel to pull its troops back.

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae, who has an interest in foreign affairs, demonstrated his knowledge of the issue with a casual reference to 242.

"Go back to President Nixon, Mr. Kissinger, all that, all the efforts, the Madrid process, the Oslo process, all the events, the Annapolis process, more recently the effort that President Obama began. All these efforts since what, 40 years, are based on 242."

With a report from The Canadian Press

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story that appeared online and in Thursday's newspaper incorrectly stated Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Mr. Baird said on Wednesday the government's support for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was "based on the '67 border, with mutually agreed-upon swaps."

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Follow on Twitter: @adrianmorrow

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