Baird to discuss Syrian crisis on weekend visit to NATO-ally Turkey

OTTAWA – The continuing crisis is Syria will be front and centre when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visits Turkey this weekend.

Turkey, a NATO ally of Canada, is one of the handful of countries to have borne the brunt of the humanitarian spillover of two million refugees fleeing from its neighbour, Syria.

Baird will hold talks Saturday with his counterpart Ahmet Davutolu in Istanbul and will also meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

A senior Canadian official, who was not authorized to speak for attribution, said discussions would include the implications of the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus as well as the recent Russian proposal to secure Syria’s stockpile of them.

Canada and Turkey have both called for a strong international response to the attack that left at least several hundred dead.

Baird said Turkey is a valued partner for Canada and shares a deep commitment to regional security.

“We continue to co-operate closely with Turkey during this crisis, and this will continue to feature prominently in my discussions in Istanbul,” Baird said in a statement.

Baird will also hold talks with business leaders in an attempt to advance Canada’s economic interests in Turkey.

The two countries have begun exploratory discussions about a possible free-trade agreement.

“Canada and Turkey continue to deepen our economic relationship, and that is great news for both of our peoples,” said Baird.

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