Compiled by Sharon Tindyebwa
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made a surprise stop in Iraq Monday where he announced the opening of a new diplomatic office in Baghdad.
Baird’s trip is the first visit by a Canadian foreign minister to the country in 37 years.
The new office will operate out of the British embassy in Baghdad and will be an offshoot of Canada’s embassy in Jordan.
The opening of the office is part of a larger effort by Canada to re-connect with Iraq, according to media reports.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney also made a surprise visit to Iraq in March.
“Today’s opening is a historic milestone in Canadian relations with Iraq and comes at a pivotal moment,” Baird is quoted by CBC as saying in a release from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa.
“Ten years after the Iraqi intervention, Iraq is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, despite deep and lingering sectarian tensions,” he said.
Stephanie Duhaime, who has served in Iraq, Lebanon, Bangladesh and Syria, according to the Canadian Press, will run the new office.
The visit to Iraq is part of Baird’s Middle East tour, with scheduled stops in Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
On Sunday, Baird pledged $13 million in new federal government funding to Jordan to help the country deal with an influx of refugees from Syria.
Canada has already given Jordan $11.5 million to help with Syrian refugees, according to CBC.
Baird’s visit to the Middle East is seen as part of a shift in Canadian foreign policy.
In interview with Al-Jazeera on Sunday, Baird is quoted as saying “Canada does not go along in order to get along … We take our position based on Canadian values, based on Canadian interests and what we believe is right.”
He added that there had people in past governments “who would define Canadian foreign policy as whatever the international consensus was, and that is not good enough, we should take policy decisions based on what is right.”
Baird’s trip is set to end in London after a meeting with G8 foreign ministers on April 10 and 11.