The plan is to travel to Brussels for visits with senior EU and NATO officials. But first, Canada’s new foreign minister, Peter MacKay, arrived in London and met with British leaders, including Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The two covered a range of issues. They discussed the situation in Iraq, mentioning the status of Canadian and other international hostages. And so did MacKay, on this his very first trip abroad, manage to clarify or cloud any possible questions about the direction of Canadian foreign policy?
On the one hand, MacKay, responding to reporters, stated, “I do not foresee Canada having a more active military presence ... in Iraq.” And so what will be the direction of policy? To that, there was no clear answer. He did, however, stress that in recent years he thought, “both domestically and internationally, Canada may have lost its focus.” Our new mission in Afghanistan, described as “significant” by Straw, was a source of pride. And again, on Iraq, there could be much more involvement, though the focus would be on humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. Overall, when world affairs is at issue, MacKay observed: “What I would suggest is that we can play a more significant role” [MacKay and Straw cited in Paula Adamick’s “Canada Can Play ‘More Significant Role’ in Global Affairs, MacKay Says, CP, 24 February 2006. Story posted at http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=9054e5ca-55f2-40ae-9512-8cecd1670392&k=64480
And how was this for a first impression? Did our new Foreign Affairs Minister actually intend to offend certain parties during his first months on the job? One journalist, noting MacKay opted not to head south on his first visit, asked if this was intended as a snub. “This was not meant to be a slight to anyone…It was simply one country had to come first. So here I am in the U.K….We are not dodging at all our relationship with the United States,” came the reply [cited in http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=9054e5ca-55f2-40ae-9512-8cecd1670392&k=64480
Before heading to Brussels, the Minister made a stopover in Turin, where he participated in the 2006 Olympic closing ceremonies and met with athletes. He arrived in Belgium on 27 February and will come home 1 March [for details of the entire trip, see http://w01.international.gc.ca/minpub/Publication.asp?publication_id=383688&language=E
Posted by Stan Markotich
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