OTTAWA – Lebanon and Jordan are at a critical “tipping point” and need more Canadian help in order to survive the pressure of the Syrian civil war, says Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion.
That’s why Canada will beef up its military and diplomatic presence in the two countries as part of its reconfigured contribution to the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic militants in the region, Dion said in an interview.
Dion discussed the expanded mission as his cabinet colleague, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, begins two days of meetings Wednesday with his NATO counterparts in Brussels.
The NATO meeting will mark the first interaction between a Canadian cabinet minister and allies following the release of the government’s new strategy for helping fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Liberal government followed through on its plan to withdraw its six CF-18 fighter jets, which will stop bombing by Feb. 22.
But the government also announced increased resources for Lebanon and Jordan, small countries that are buckling under the pressure of the influx of millions of fleeing Syrians.
“They are at the tipping point,” Dion told The Canadian Press.
“We need to help them because if Lebanon and Jordan are not stable countries it will be very bad for the region, for all our allies, including Israel.”
Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, said this week the Canadian Forces would be deploying about 100 personnel to the two countries, but the exact details were still being planned.
“We are going to work with Global Affairs Canada to scope out the nature of the capacity building mission that will occur in Lebanon and Jordan,” Vance said.
“We can expect to be deploying members there in the range of 100.”
Alex Bugailiskis, an assistant deputy minister at Global Affairs, said there’s an urgent need to fill in the gap between short-term humanitarian aid and longer-term development programming as the Syrian war stretches on and affects its neighbours.
“These countries are really feeling the pressure of hosting millions of refugees and it’s having an impact on the communities in which they’re housed,” Bugailiskis said this week.
“We’re going to be doing a lot more.”
The government’s new anti-ISIL plan includes spending more than $1.6 billion over the next three years on security, stabilization and humanitarian and development assistance in the region.
That includes $840 million to provide water, shelter health care, hygiene and sanitation, and $270 million to build capacity in those countries helping refugees.