Baird Concludes Successful Visit to Middle East

March 21, 2012 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today concluded his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where he discussed regional security issues and met with prominent business leaders.

“I was pleased to accept Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s invitation to discuss the situation in the Middle East,” Minister Baird said. “Saudi Arabia is an important player in the region and in the international community generally. We agreed on the need for united action to end the appalling violence in Syria perpetrated by the Assad regime and to deal with the resulting humanitarian crisis.

“Prince Saud and I discussed our concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program and its consistent refusal to abide by UN Security Council resolutions and allow full inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. We agreed that Iran is a destabilizing force in the region and that the international community has to remain united in its common interest of convincing the Iranian regime to reverse its current course and abandon any nuclear weapons program.”

While in Riyadh, Baird also met with Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, President of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, CEO of Kingdom Holding Company.

During his trip, Minister Baird travelled to Jeddah to meet with Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), at the organization’s headquarters.

“The 56-member organization is an important collective voice for the Muslim world. Under Mr. Ihsanoglu’s leadership, the OIC has been an important advocate for the Syrian people,” said Baird. “It is also a vehicle for providing humanitarian assistance to those caught up in the conflict.”

“We also discussed concerns about Iran’s apparent willingness to become a nuclear threat to the peace and stability of the region.”

In Qatar, Baird opened the new Canadian embassy in Doha. He also met with H.E. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Mohammed Bin Jabr Al Thani, Minister’s Assistant for International Cooperation Affairs.

“Qatar is continuing to play a constructive role in the Middle East and has a valuable perspective to offer,” said Baird. “The opening of Canada’s new embassy in Doha is a reflection of the strong relations we enjoy with this dynamic Gulf state and demonstrates that our relationship is getting stronger.”

- 30 -

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Follow us on Twitter: @DFAIT_MAECI