The Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada, John Baird, made a surprise visit to Iraq today, where he made an unexpected announcement of opening a new Canadian diplomatic mission. He alleged that Canada wishes to extend its engagement with the country that has recently become a pivotal force in a troubled region, and hence Canada is obliged to hold a presence in Baghdad.
In an official press statement, Baird mentioned that “with conflict raging in neighbouring Syria, with the ayatollah’s regime relentlessly pursuing sectarian hegemony and nuclear ambitions, and with a NATO ally and economic partner bordering Iraq’s north, today’s opening here in Baghdad expresses Canada’s intention to expand our engagement with a key regional player.” This new diplomatic office will be an offshoot of already-existing Canadian embassy in Amman, Jordan, and will be working from the British embassy in Baghdad. Canada did not have an ambassador in official capacity to Iraq since 1991, even though the embassy in Jordan was sanctioned to assume responsibility for Iraq in 2005.
The new Baghdad office has been handed over by charge d’affairs to Stephanie Duhaime, who has previously served previously in Iraq, Lebanon, Bangladesh and Syria and has played a key role in developing NATO and Canadian counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan in 2009-2010. Baird mentioned that “today’s opening is a historic milestone in Canadian relations with Iraq and comes at a pivotal moment.” He added that “ten years after the Iraqi intervention, Iraq is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, despite deep and lingering sectarian tensions.”
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