POLITICS

John Baird meets with Lebanese prime minister

08/11/2012 11:30 EDT | Updated 10/11/2012 05:12 EDT
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird met with Lebanon's prime minister and opposition leader on Friday as part of his Middle East visit, thanking them for their role in aiding Syrian refugees.

"Today I had the pleasure of meeting Prime Minister Najib Mikati and, later, the parliamentary leader of the March 14 opposition, Fouad Siniora," Baird said in a statement. " I expressed to both of them Canada’s sincere gratitude for the role Lebanon has played in hosting Syrians seeking asylum from the violence that is ravaging their homeland."

Baird said Lebanon is an "important and valued partner in the Middle East region" and that both countries share a deep concern over the risk posed to Syria’s neighbours by Syrian President Bashar Assad regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons."

Baird is in the region at a time of fierce fighting between government troops and rebels in Aleppo, Syria's largest city and financial hub.

The United Nations estimates more than 78,000 people have fled to refugee camps in neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan to escape the bloodshed.

Baird will also travel to Amman, Jordan, and meet with with King Abdullah II and his Foreign Affairs counterpart. He will also tour a refugee camp set up for Syrian refugees.

Activists say upwards of 21,000 people have been killed in Syria since a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters began in March 2011.