Trudeau, king of Jordan meet to talk refugee issues, security concerns

OTTAWA — As they met in his Parliament Hill office Monday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lauded the king of Jordan for his leadership in the Middle East during troubled times.

Trudeau offered the tribute as he welcomed King Abdullah II on his fifth visit to Canada in his 20 years as leader of the strategically important country that borders Syria and Iraq.

"I really have to say that His Majesty has been extraordinary in being a strong leader at a time of so much uncertainty," Trudeau said after the two shook hands.

He turned to the king. "Whether it's on refugees or human rights, economic growth and opportunities, you really have been a tremendous, tremendous strong voice."

Abdullah, clad in a dark business suit and red tie, said his country appreciates the "tremendous support" it has received from Canada in co-ordinating on refugee and regional issues, and "outstanding military and intelligence co-operation."

Upwards of 660,000 Syrians have sought shelter in neighbouring Jordan from the conflict engulfing their homeland, a massive influx for Jordan's population of about 10 million.

Canada has tried to ease the burden under a marquee Liberal program that originated in a campaign promise during the 2015 election.

That year, Trudeau promised to bring 25,000 Syrians to Canada and it is four years ago this month that the Liberal government kicked off a multi-billion-dollar program, in Jordan, that would eventually see nearly 40,000 Syrians arrive.

The Prime Minister's Office said the two discussed efforts by Canada and Jordan to promote diversity and counter violent extremism. They also talked about how Canada could help Jordan cope with the pressures from the Syrian civil war and the ongoing unrest in Iraq, as well as their shared concerns about climate change.

"They also discussed the importance of economic development in the region, including investments and opportunities in transportation and energy infrastructure," said a readout from Trudeau's office.

Abdullah is headed to New York City to receive an award this week from a U.S. think-thank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, for his peace-building efforts.

Abdullah will be receiving the institute's "scholar-statesman award," which has previously been given to former U.S. president Bill Clinton, ex-British prime minister Tony Blair and former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2019.

The Canadian Press