Middle East

Palestinians throw eggs at Canada's John Baird

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Media captionBoos and eggs for Canada's foreign minister

Palestinian protesters have thrown eggs at Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird as he was visiting the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mr Baird was not hit, though some eggs struck his motorcade.

Canada is considered one of Israel's closest allies.

It voted against the Palestinians' successful UN bid to become a non-member state and has opposed their recent move to join the International Criminal Court.

Mr Baird was in Ramallah to meet Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, during a five-day trip to the region. His visit came a day after the ICC said it was opening a "preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine".

Mr Baird said he and Mr Malki had held "cordial and constructive" talks that included "candid and frank exchanges on areas where we differ in opinion".

"I asked that the minister strongly reconsider the consequences of moving forward with any action that may be counterproductive to a negotiated solution with the state of Israel."

'Wrong side of history'

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, who did not meet Mr Baird, issued a statement expressing his anger at Canada's backing for Israel.

"We regret the Canadian government's decision to stand on the wrong side of history by blindly supporting the Israeli occupation and its apartheid policies," he said.

Harsh critics of Israel level the charge of apartheid - the system of state-sanctioned racial discrimination once practised by South Africa - against the Jewish state over its treatment of Palestinians and Israeli-Arab minority. Israel says the accusation is baseless and a part of efforts to demonise it.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A crowd of protesters had gathered at the foreign affairs ministry in Ramallah

He criticised Mr Baird for meeting Israeli officials in occupied east Jerusalem in 2013.

Later on Sunday, Mr Baird met Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem. Arriving there, he said an ICC decision to open its preliminary examination was "deeply regrettable".

Mr Lieberman thanked Canada for its support. "The opposition of one of the founders of the ICC is very important, maybe crucial," he said.

The Palestinians will formally join the ICC on 1 April and have asked it to investigate Israeli "crimes" since June 2014.

This covers events prior to and during last summer's conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza.

Israel and the US have strongly criticised the Palestinians' move.

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