Baird Concludes Visit to Ukraine, Heads to Middle East

December 5, 2013 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today concluded a successful two-day visit to Ukraine, where he met his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kozhara, to express Canada’s grave concerns about the Ukrainian government’s crackdown on mass protests against its decision to suspend negotiations with the European Union. He also met with leaders of the Ukrainian opposition and with representatives of civil society to voice Canada’s support for the democratic rights of all Ukrainians. Baird also participated in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial Council.

“Canada is deeply disappointed with the Ukrainian government’s decision to suspend preparations for the signing of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union,” said Baird. “Speaking to my OSCE counterparts in Ukraine, it is clear we all view this as a lost opportunity. I remain hopeful that preparations for a Ukraine-EU agreement can resume in the near future, but we are not naive about the challenges that lie ahead.”

While in Kyiv, Baird also visited the Holodomor Memorial to pay his respects to those who perished under Soviet tyranny during this tragic part of Ukraine’s history. After participating in the OSCE Ministerial Council, Baird visited Independence Square to speak with demonstrators as part of a series of visits to the square by the OSCE ministers.

“The clear signals of the Ukrainian people have been broadcast around the world, and the most concerning and disappointing aspect has been the government’s reaction to these peaceful protests,” said Baird. “We will continue to stand with those Ukrainians that believe in freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

From Kyiv, Baird will travel to Bahrain, where he will participate in the Manama Dialogue, an annual summit on regional security challenges. Minister Baird will advocate for Canadian priorities in the Middle East and engage with regional partners on Gulf Cooperation Council integration, Syria, Iran, human rights and the security architecture of the Gulf.

Baird will also hold talks with Abu Bakr Abdullah Al-Qirbi, Yemen’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose country suffered a deadly attack on its defence ministry on Thursday.

“Canada condemns in the strongest terms this abhorrent attack on Yemen’s defence ministry. Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured and killed,” said Baird. “I look forward to meeting with my Yemeni counterpart to discuss regional stability and security, among other issues important to the region.”

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