March 31, 2013 11:00 am

Canada pledges $13M to Jordan to aid Syrian refugees

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird (L) shakes hands with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh following their meeting in the capital Amman, on March 31, 2013.

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AMMAN, Jordan – Canada is giving the Middle Eastern country of Jordan an additional $13 million to help deal with a crush of Syrian refugees.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced the aid after meeting with senior Jordanian officials, including the country’s King Abdullah, on Sunday.

“Jordan has consistently demonstrated a leadership role in the pursuit of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and it continues to lead in the face of the ongoing crisis in Syria,” Baird said in a statement.

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“Jordan’s generosity in hosting an influx of Syrian refugees is a model for all.”

Canada has already given Jordan $11.5 million to help deal with over 380,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived there in the last two years.

The United Nations estimates more than one million people have fled the ongoing violence in Syria, and millions more are internally displaced.

Baird says the new funds will help deal with the immediate humanitarian and security needs created by the influx.

“Some 2,000 desperate Syrians arrive in Jordan daily. Accepting them is not without sacrifice or risk domestically,” Baird said.

“It is done in the finest tradition of promoting human dignity.”

There have been calls for Canada to also begin bringing more Syrian refugees to Canada, especially those who already have family here.

But Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has said large-scale resettlement programs are not a feasible solution to the crisis, though his officials are working on contingency plans to do so if they’re asked by the U.N. to start a program.

The crisis in Syria has befuddled Canadian efforts to resettle thousands of refugees from other areas in the region because the violence forced the closure of the Canadian visa office in Damascus.

The newly-inaugurated Canadian embassy in Jordan has picked up some of that responsibility, and Baird mused Sunday about expanding Canada’s diplomatic presence in another country in the region: Iraq.

“I’d love to see a Canadian presence on the ground in Baghdad,” Baird told CTV’s Question Period.

“I think that would be tremendously important to the future of our economic relations and trade, as well as people to people ties.”

Kenney made a surprise trip to Baghdad earlier this month, the first cabinet minister to visit the country since the 1970s.

Baird’s trip to Jordan is part of a broader tour of the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Cyprus and Israel.

Sunday marked the expiration of a five-year, $300 million funding commitment for aid to Palestinians, which is expected to be the subject of Baird’s discussions in the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

© The Canadian Press, 2013

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