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, began two days of meetings Wednesday with his NATO counterparts in Brussels.
Sajjan met American Defence Secretary Ash Carter and provided an update of Canada’s new strategy for helping fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The Liberal government will also follow 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 deploy 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.
“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.
In Brussels on Wednesday, NATO defence ministers discussed a request by Turkey for help in dealing with the growing flow of refugees from the Middle East to Europe, said Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Stoltenberg said it was too early to say whether NATO would deploy maritime or surveillance assets to the deal with the Mediterranean Sea crossings.
“We are going to look into and discuss and find how NATO is going to provide some of these assets or some of these capabilities to help cope with the refugee crisis to fight the smugglers.”
NATO also announced it is bolstering its defences in member countries that border Russia, to further protect them.
“This is a multinational force,” Stoltenberg said.
“And having a multinational forward presence is also a very strong signal of unity of the alliance, that an attack or any kind of aggression against one will be met by a strong response from all allies together in the alliance.”