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Foreign Minister Baird to visit Middle East

Canadian minister looking to boost relations during stops in Lebanon, Jordan
By: Sammy Hudes
Published: August 10th, 2012 in News » World
Canadian Foreign Minister John BairdPic: JohnBaird.com

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced on Thursday that he will travel to Lebanon and Syria from August 10 to August 13, where he plans to increase Canada’s support for Syrian refugees fleeing to the two countries.

During the trip, the foreign minister’s office said Baird would express the Canadian government’s commitment for stability in both countries.

He is scheduled to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut as well as with Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh and King Abdullah II to discuss an end to Syria’s ongoing dispute.

Syria has been enthralled in an ongoing uprising for nearly a year and a half as the country’s rebels oppose the military forces Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s governing regime.

“The situation in Syria threatens the stability of the entire Middle East,” said Baird. “As the fighting continues and atrocities multiply, the need for all countries to bring pressure to bear on the Assad regime is imperative. The situation grows increasingly difficult as refugees continue to flow over Syria’s borders into neighbouring countries.”

Baird’s staff announced Thursday that the foreign minister’s tour would include a visit to the Za’atari refugee camp on the border of Jordan and Syria, where he will make an announcement underlining Canada’s support for refugees fleeing the civil war-torn neighbouring country.

The Za’atari camp currently holds about 4,000 displaced Syrians while in Lebanon, no camps have been constructed to house the refugees, who are believed to number almost 100,000.

This will be the first meeting between a Lebanese prime minister and a member of the Canadian cabinet since 2009, when then-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora met with Jason Kenney.

The focus of discussions with Middle Eastern officials will include “the deteriorating situation in Syria and Iran, regional security throughout the Middle East, trade and commerce, and other matters of mutual interest,” Baird’s office said in a release.

“Canada welcomes Lebanon’s continued assistance to Syrians escaping the violence in their country,” said Baird’s spokesman, Joseph Lavoie. “The Syrian crisis risks undermining stability across the entire region. One of the reasons the minister is travelling to Lebanon and Jordan is to determine needs in both places.”

While in Lebanon, Baird will also meet with members of the opposition, including Siniora, the parliamentary leader of the March 14 opposition.

In Jordan, the foreign minister plans to discuss Canada-Jordan bilateral relations.

“Jordan has, once again, made an exceptional contribution to regional safety and security by welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees,” said Lavoie. “Canada stands ready to help Jordan as it continues to welcome these people.”

Related articles: John Baird, Canada, Foreign Minister, Foreign Affairs, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Middle East
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