Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird
Canadian Foreign Minister John BairdAFP photo

The Palestinian Authority on Sunday summoned Canada's envoy to convey "strong dissatisfaction" over Foreign Minister John Baird's visit last week to eastern Jerusalem, AFP reported.

The Palestinian Authority foreign ministry summoned Katherine Verrier-Frechette "to express its strong dissatisfaction over the meeting between Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird and Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in east Jerusalem," a statement read.

Baird met Livni, lead peace negotiator in Israel's cabinet, at her office in eastern Jerusalem last Tuesday. Such a move is normally avoided by visiting diplomats since world countries do not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, which it liberated during the 1967 Six Day War.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said he was "extremely shocked" by the eastern Jerusalem meeting.

"This position is a violation of UN resolutions" and "attempts to legitimize the Israeli occupation of east Jerusalem," a spokesman for Arabi said in Cairo, according to AFP.

Former PA foreign minister Nabil Shaath on Friday lambasted the visit, writing in the Canadian daily The Globe and Mail that the visit was an "unprecedented recognition of the illegal Israeli annexation of Palestinians' occupied capital" and a "slap in the face to the Palestinian people."

The PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said that "diplomatic recognition of the situation created by the attempted annexation of our capital is a flagrant violation of international law" that "severely undermines current U.S. efforts" to rekindle a peace process.

Canada is one of Israel's staunchest allies and was one of the few countries that opposed a successful PA bid for upgraded status at the United Nations late last year. Before the vote, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened to pressure Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to drop his bid for upgraded status at the United Nations.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor praised the visit and Canada's "straight talk" on international issues.

Baird himself was unfazed by the criticism, saying on Friday that where he has coffee with someone is “irrelevant” to the larger discussion of Middle East peace and does not signal a shift 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 OK, and you have a meeting on the other side of street and it’s not,” he said.

“We’re focused on trying to have an impact on the difficult and serious challenges, that being security for Israelis, an end to the conflict and the legitimate aspirations for a state from those in the Palestinian side,” added Baird.