US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Canada this week

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is coming to Canada for a two-day visit this week and will visit Montreal with Global Affairs Minister Melanie Joly to showcase the personal ties that underpin diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Blinken will travel to Ottawa on Thursday for the more formal part of the agenda, a government official told The Star.

This will include discussions on the war in Ukraine, the political and security situation in Haiti as well as longer-term issues regarding Arctic security and Canada’s emerging strategy to strengthen its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

On Friday — and at the request of the Americans — Blinken will spend the day in Montreal with Joly, a three-term Quebec Liberal MP and former candidate for mayor of Montreal, as his guide.

The government official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the trip, said the Montreal leg of the trip underscores the relationship that has developed between the two top diplomats in a frenetic year since their first meeting in Liverpool during the G7 summit in December. 2021.

The Canadian visit is the fruit of a particularly harmonious meeting between Blinken and Joly last month in Washington, at the end of which the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs made a suggestion.

« (Joly) said, ‘Tony, come on over and I’ll show you my hometown.’ It was a joke at first, but after the last bilateral (meeting) we had with them, which went particularly well, the Americans reached out to us and said, ‘Let’s do it,' » the manager said.

Part of the synergy comes down to language.

Blinken spent a decade of his youth in Paris with his mother and stepfather, Holocaust survivor and renowned lawyer Samuel Pisar, and called the city in 2021 « my second home. »

Blinken and Joly greet each other in French when they meet at international summits before switching back to English for the benefit of non-French speaking leaders in their suite, the official said.

But Blinken’s northern getaway will be more than a social call.

Russia’s war in Ukraine will naturally be on the agenda as Ukraine and its Western allies face Russian allegations that Ukraine may launch a « dirty bomb » attack and counter allegations that the Russia could be planning a so-called « false flag » attack as a premise to escalate the conflict.

They will also address the violence, the political crisis and the cholera epidemic in Haiti. Both Canada and the United States are home to large Haitian diaspora communities.

The Caribbean nation has descended into despair as opposition politicians demand that interim President Ariel Henry call a general election. Last month, a gang took over the largest port in Port-au-Prince and blocked land shipments of fuel throughout the country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

On top of that, the country is grappling with a cholera epidemic which, according to UNICEF, has claimed 40 lives and more than 1,700 suspected cases, almost half of them involving children under the age of 14. Hospitals were unable to receive vital supplies. medicines due to fuel shortages.

Canada and the United States have delivered an undisclosed number of armored vehicles and other equipment to the country which have been purchased for use by the Haitian National Police. Haiti, however, requests an international assistance force to restore peace in the country.

The official said there will also be discussions on the Arctic, following the release last week of a US national strategy for the Arctic region, as well as Canada’s emerging strategy for dealing with countries. from the Indo-Pacific region, including Australia, India, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and other nations.

A formal policy document outlining Canada’s approach in the region is expected later this year.

Washington last month rolled out a $50 billion (US) plan to expand its semiconductor production capacity and the administration sees potential for convergence with the Trudeau government’s $4 billion budget investment for increase production of critical minerals such as cobalt, lithium and graphite that are needed for electric vehicle batteries, among others, the official noted.

But the meetings in Canada will be a continuation of a close collaboration that has developed over the past eight months, which has been dominated by the coordinated Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the imposition of economic sanctions against Russia and the delivery of military aid and supplies and weapons to Ukrainian forces.

Between the G7, the G20 and NATO, the government official estimated that Joly and Blinken met at least once a month.

At their last meeting on Sept. 30 in Washington, Blinken noted the common interests and values ​​of Canada and the United States, but also added a personal note in praise of Joly.

“Melanie, as always, thank you for the visit but, above all, thank you for your partnership, thank you for your friendship on a professional level, on a personal level,” he said. « We are the closest collaborators and that is something that I deeply appreciate and am grateful for every day. »

Allan Woods is a reporter in Montreal for the Star. It covers global and domestic affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @WoodsAllan


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