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By Léon Bruneau and Michel Comte
Canada said Thursday it was conducting an assessment mission in Haiti, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Ottawa for talks on setting up an intervention force to address the Caribbean nation’s spiralling crises. online news
The Canadian delegation is due to assess options “to support Haitian people in resolving the humanitarian and security crises” facing the impoverished country and “restore access to essential goods and services,” in consultation with regional partners the United Nations, the CARICOM Caribbean grouping and others, a statement said.
The mission comes in the wake of appeals by Haiti’s government and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for international intervention as armed gangs take over vast stretches of the country and a cholera outbreak worsens.
The UN Security Council last week unanimously approved a resolution that targeted gang leaders but it did not address a multinational force.
Ahead of Blinken’s arrival in Ottawa, however, a top US official voiced hope for progress on an international intervention.
“I am very optimistic that the international community and the Security Council will come together around another resolution that would create a multinational force for Haiti,” said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols.
While President Joe Biden’s administration has made clear it has no desire to put US troops in harm’s way, Nichols rejected pessimism that no country would step forward.
He said a “number of countries” have the capacity to lead a mission, including Canada, but that there had been no decision.
“I’ve talked to dozens of partner nations around the world about the situation in Haiti and there is strong support for a multinational force,” he added.
- US prioritizes police –
Blinken said ahead of his trip that solving Haiti’s problems would be “difficult, if not impossible” without restoring security.
He reiterated the US focus on building the Haitian National Police, pointing to the October 15 delivery by the US and Canadian militaries of equipment, including armored vehicles.
“We need to break the nexus — a very noxious nexus — between the gangs and certain political elites who are funding them, directing them and using them to advance their own interests instead of the interests of the country,” Blinken told an event at Bloomberg News.
“If we are able to help break that up as well as reinforce the Haitian National Police, then I think the government can get a grip on security,” he said.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said she would discuss Haiti with Blinken and that any actions need to “take into consideration what Haitians themselves think.”
“The goal is, at the end of the day, to find ways to help Haiti in the most effective way,” she told reporters in Ottawa.
Joly said Canada would work to impose sanctions on gang leaders in line with last week’s Security Council resolution that notably froze for one year all economic resources linked to Jimmy Cherizier, nicknamed “Barbecue,” whose armed groups have blockaded Haiti’s main oil terminal.
In a statement, she vowed Canada would “not remain idle while gangs and those who support them terrorize Haiti’s citizens.”
Joly said she would also coordinate with Blinken on the Ukraine war, Iran and China, ahead of a series of major Asian summits.
Blinken has spoken frequently to Joly but his two-day trip is his first to Canada since becoming the top US diplomat in January 2021 with the start of Biden’s presidency.
In Ottawa, Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and tour a community center for Ukrainian refugees.
He will spend Friday in Montreal, Joly’s hometown, where he will visit a lithium recycling factory in a bid to highlight cooperation on supply chains.
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