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Canada: Ukraine, Syria and Somalia on Dion’s agenda as he travels to Germany and Turkey

Saturday February 20, 2016

Canada’s Foreign Minister Stephane Dion speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, January 27, 2016.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion is heading for his first official visit to Germany to discuss pressing international issues with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Global Affairs Canada announced Friday.

During his meeting with Steinmeier at Villa Borsig, the German Foreign Office’s guest house at Lake Tegel, in Berlin, on Monday, Dion will discuss how to “respond to global challenges, such as the fight against terrorism, the refugee crisis, the situation in Ukraine and climate change.”

“Germany is a close friend of Canada and has shown great leadership on the challenging issues facing all of us today,” Dion said in a statement. “I am looking forward to increasing our already very strong collaboration to tackle the most pressing issues of our time.”

Germany has played a leading diplomatic role in mediating between Russia and Ukraine within the Minsk peace process. And both Ottawa and Berlin watch nervously as the squabbling in Ukraine’s pro-Western camp threatens to derail the process of political and economic reforms international creditors demand before releasing further loans to stabilize the country’s struggling economy.

At the same time, the ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine remains extremely fragile, with frequent flare-ups and both sides accusing each other of breaking the commitments under the Minsk process.

After his meetings in Germany, Dion will then fly to Istanbul, Turkey, to participate in the High Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) on Somalia, the latest in a series of international conferences dedicated to helping Somalia rebuild.

Dion is expected meet with international partners, including counterparts from Africa and the Middle East, to discuss the situation in Somalia and preparations for elections to be held later in 2016.

At the end of January, the Western-backed government of Somalia finally agreed on the electoral model to be used in the war-torn Horn of Africa country. However, serious obstacles to re-establishing the rule of law in Somalia remain, with the Islamist terrorist group Al-Shabaab  still controlling large swathes of territory despite the presence of African Union peacekeeping troops in the country.

“Minister Dion’s participation in this ministerial meeting reaffirms Canada’s commitment to supporting international efforts toward a more stable, peaceful and resilient Somalia,” said the statement from Global Affairs. “Progress in Somalia is essential to regional security and stability in East Africa.”

In Turkey, Dion will also participate in a round table with Syrian opposition representatives, marking the first time a Canadian minister and the Syrian opposition representatives meet since early 2013. The meeting with members of Syrian opposition comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to play a more active diplomatic role to settle the Syrian crisis.

The trip to Turkey also comes amid rising tensions between Russia and Turkey, with both countries accusing each other of provocative and destabilising behaviour.

Massive Russian air strikes in Syria, many of which target Syrian opposition forces supported by the West and Turkey in particular, have tipped the balance in favour of President Bashar Al-Assad and allowed his forces to quickly regain ground, infuriating Ankara.


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