OTTAWA — Jordanian King Abdullah says Canada is a vital ally to his country and region.
The king, who is making his third Canadian visit since his ascension to the throne in February 1999, spoke Wednesday at a state luncheon at Rideau Hall hosted by Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
“Your presence in our part of the world is more important now than ever,” he told the guests, including several cabinet ministers and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
“We see you, not only in our country, but in the region, there to do the right thing, to help people, to better their lives.”
With Canada contributing to the West’s military mission in neighbouring Iraq and Syria, Abdullah said Canada’s participation was needed and he said he wanted all Canadians to understand that.
“Your role and your presence in our part of the world is something that is drastically needed and one that I am very proud to be a partner of.”
Jordan and Canada are among the allies conducting bombing missions against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets inside Syria.
The king thanked Canada for its humanitarian assistance as his tiny desert kingdom manages a massive influx of Syrian refugees.
Jordan has absorbed 1.5 million Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country, which the king said amounts to 20 to 25 per cent of his country’s entire population.
“I keep frightening Americans by saying that’s like having 65 million Canadians crossing the border in two years,” Abdullah said.
Harper visited Jordan in January 2014 and pledged $105 million in aid to help the country cope with the rush of Syrian refugees.
The prime minister and the king held their own meeting at Harper’s Parliament Hill office.
Following the meeting, Harper announced more than $120 million in assistance for Jordan.
The announcement includes millions to tighten the country’s border against efforts to move nuclear materials across it, and to enhance Jordan’s security against biological and chemical agents.
Canadian will also contribute $4.5 million help keep ISIL terrorism from spilling into the kingdom.
The package also includes $97.8 million for a series of development projects, including money for education, water projects and a series of steps to encourage entrepreneurship among Jordanian women.
“Canada is proud to stand alongside Jordan and our other Coalition allies in the fight against (ISIL) and to work together at mitigating the suffering this barbaric terrorist group is causing innocent civilians in the region,” Harper said.
The Jordanian leader was greeted by the Governor General and Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson upon arrival at Rideau Hall.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney, Trade Minister Ed Fast and Labour Minister Kellie Leitch were also on hand to meet the king, who was welcomed with a full honour guard.
Abdullah last visited Canada in 2007 and, since then, he and Harper have developed what appears to be a warm relationship.