04/02/2013 03:10 EDT | Updated 06/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Canada, U.A.E. Visitor Visa Dispute Settled As Baird Travels Middle East


OTTAWA - Canada and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to end a squabble over visas that forced Canadians to pay hundreds of dollars to enter the Gulf country.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his U.A.E. counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan say they have agreed to restore the visa regime that existed prior to a dispute that erupted in 2010.

They say the two countries are also ready to sign a nuclear co-operation deal. Details on the two agreements will be formalized in the next month.

The two countries have also created a Canada-U.A.E. business council to improve commercial relationships.

Baird is on a lengthy swing through the Middle East, which has included a surprise visit to Iraq as well as stops in Jordan and Cyprus.

The agreement with the U.A.E. to revert to the previous visa regime ends a spat which began in 2010 when the Emirates were denied the opportunity to expand air travel to Canada.

Visitors from most European countries, Australia and the U.S. don't need visas for the U.A.E. Canadians, however, must pay $165 for a single-entry, 30-day visa; $330 for a single-entry 60-day visa; and $660 for a six-month, multiple-entry visa.

In a statement on Tuesday, Baird and the U.A.E. foreign minister agreed to restore the status quo on visas and increase co-operation overall.

"As strategic partners, Canada and the U.A.E. can make significant contributions toward the goal of achieving stability and prosperity across the region," the two men said.

They also agreed to strengthen co-operation on police, corrections and border matters, including training opportunities.

The two countries also joined in urging Iran to co-operate with the international community on its nuclear program and called for an effective and responsible international response to the Assad regime and its actions against the Syrian people.

"We find ourselves at a historic crossroads in the region and globally: between an opportunity to promote prosperity, security and development and the threats posed by extremists, conflict and poverty," the joint communique said.

"It is essential for Canada and the U.A.E. that we continue to build our strategic partnership for the future."

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