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Canada pledges more aid, pushes for more support for Syrian civilians

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks through the gardens of the Constantine Palace with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird (Thursday September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia prior to the G20 Summit.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Amid the polarized debate over Syria, Canada and the U.K. are among a group of countries pushing for common ground on the need for more humanitarian support for civilians caught up in the ongoing fighting.

Canada and the U.K. both announced additional humanitarian aid funding Friday after a series of late night and early morning meetings.

With the U.S. and France advocating for a military strike in Syria and Russia and China voicing their strong opposition, there was virtually no hope of agreement on the issue heading in to the summit.

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A dinner last night hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin included a discussion on Syria that appears to have largely confirmed the public disagreements.

But after the display of opera and fireworks put on by Mr. Putin for his guests, a series of meetings – some of which included Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird – focused on finding agreement around humanitarian aid.

On Friday, Canada announced $45-million in additional support for the region. The money is aimed at providing food, clean water and sanitation, medical assistance, shelter and protection – both in Syria and for Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

Ottawa says it has now contributed $203-million in humanitarian assistance related to the Syrian crisis since January 2013.

British Prime Minister David Cameron – who chaired a meeting Friday morning focused on Syria that was attended by Mr. Baird – announced about $85-million in aid.

"It will help us build international support for action by showing that our response is not just military," said Mr. Cameron, according to the Guardian newspaper. "At a summit where people have focused on potential divisions over Syria, I wanted to bring you together to identify key priorities about the action needed to send a strong message about our commitment to the Syrian people and the urgent priority to do more."

Canadian officials confirmed Mr. Baird's attendance. The Guardian reported the meeting was also attended by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, European Union leaders José Manual Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, U.S. deputy national security advisor Caroline Atkinson, Saudi finance minister Ibrahim al-Assaf and Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

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On Friday afternoon, Mr. Baird will attend another meeting focused on Syria that will involve foreign affairs ministers.

That meeting is expected to include representatives from Argentina, China, France, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, South Korea, Senegal, Turkey and the United Nations.

As the two day summit approaches its conclusion, the closing news conferences of Mr. Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama will be closely watched for their summaries of the debate over Syria.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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