The Palestine Papers
Letter from Erekat to MacKay Re: Refugees Position

Letter from Erekat to MacKay dated January 28, 2007, requesting clarification on MacKay's agreement with Livni/Israel regarding refusal of Palestinian refugees' right to return. Erekat stresses that, as coordinator of Multi-laterl working group on refugees, Canada must remain neutral.

Last Updated:

January 28, 2007



The Honorable Peter Gordon MacKay

Minister of Foreign Affairs




Dear Mr. MacKay:


I am writing to seek clarification from your office as to Canada?s official position on the Palestinian refugee issue, as an item for permanent status negotiations.  Canada holds a unique position on the refugee issue given that it is the coordinator of the Multi-lateral Working Group on Refugees. This position places an obligation on Canada to act in a neutral manner and to refrain from engaging in action that may prejudice or even torpedo future negotiations. It is in this light that I read with alarm the recent press report that you indicated your agreement with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni when she asserted that the two-state solution would not give the refugees the right to return to their former homes inside Israel.  As you noted yourself during the said press conference, Canada?s approach should take into account the perspectives of all the players. Expressing agreement with Israeli positions, especially where those positions contravene international law and foreclose a discussion of options, runs counter to your own prescription for the appropriate Canadian role. Therefore, I ask that you provide clarification as to Canada?s position, including with respect to the right of return and United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.


Canada has been a great partner to us throughout the peace process. We are particularly pleased that Canada has agreed to resettle 22 Palestinian refugee families who fled the horrific situation facing the Palestinians in Iraq.  We thank you for your efforts to provide temporary protection to this group of refugees until such time as a permanent solution for their rights can be reached with Israel through a negotiated settlement.  


We look forward to your response and working with you in the future to uphold basic principles of international law and a future, sustainable peace between Israel and Palestine.





Saeb Erekat

Head, PLO Negotiations Affairs Department  



CC: Peter McRae

Special Coordinator, Middle East Peace Process

Canada, Foreign Affairs