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Politics Palestinians protest Baird’s visit by hurling eggs, shoes at convoy

A Palestinian protester holds a poster with a photo of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird that reads in Arabic, "You should be ashamed of your biased position towards Israel," during Baird's meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, in front of the Palestinian foreign ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Jan. 18.

Nasser Nasser/AP

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.

Mr. Baird shrugged off the incident. "I was in Mike Harris' cabinet for four years. I got a lot worse," Bard told reporters afterward, referring to Mr. Harris's Progressive Conservative government in Ontario that was often targeted for its cost cutting.

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The Palestinian protesters also held signs reading: "Baird, you are not welcome in Palestine" and "Baird, Jerusalem is our capital."

Media reports sayMr.  Baird was not hit.

"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's 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."

Mr. Baird is in the region for five days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

In a statement, Baird described his meeting with Mr. Malki as "cordial and constructive" and included "candid and frank exchanges on areas where we differ in opinion."

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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, Mr. Baird said he asked Mr. 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."

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, issued a statement Sunday saying Canada was standing on "the wrong side of history by blindly supporting the Israeli occupation and its apartheid policies."

Mr. Erekat also denounced Mr. Baird for meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem, and said Canada should apologize to Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims "for standing in the way of recognizing an independent state of Palestine."

Mr. Baird later met in Jerusalem with Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and is scheduled to meet on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other politicians.

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In a statement,  Mr. Baird noted his meetings come a year after Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Israel, and that the two ministers signed a declaration outlining co-operation in the diplomatic, trade and development areas.

"Canada and Israel share similar views on the world stage," said Mr. Baird.

"Canada strongly supports Israel's right to defend itself by itself and its right to live in peace with its neighbours. Canada will fight any efforts internationally to delegitimize the State of Israel, including the disturbing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement."

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