Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Anti-ISIL Coalition Meeting in Paris Just One of Many, Defence Minister Insists

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Anti-ISIL Coalition Meeting in Paris Just One of Many, Defence Minister Insists

Article excerpt

Sajjan shrugs off absence from Paris meeting

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OTTAWA - Canada again finds itself on the outside looking in when it comes to a gathering of countries fighting militants in the Middle East, something the new defence minister is trying to shrug off in the face of opposition criticism.

There are meetings all the time to discuss threats around the world, Harjit Sajjan insisted Tuesday, but he stopped short of explaining exactly why Canada isn't invited to this week's meeting in Paris.

Counterparts from France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands will gather Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter to discuss the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Defence sources and at least one defence analyst say there may be more to the fact the Trudeau government was excluded than the domestic political outrage suggests.

Officials at NATO and the European Union are seized with ISIL's expanding presence in Libya. U.S. commandos were recently looking for allies among local militias to counter the extremist influence, but met with little success, according to published reports.

If you look at the list of countries invited to Wednesday's meeting, they are the ones with a direct stake in what's going in north Africa, said retired diplomat Eric Morse.

"It wouldn't surprise me at all if Libya came out of that pot in Paris," Morse said.

"We're in such a state of doubt in terms of our foreign policy that (the allies) don't think it's wise or useful to invite us to consider asking us to be part of a new initiative."

When asked about the meeting, Sajjan played down the non-invitation.

"These meetings are about getting updated on what's happening on the ground, and I've been very fortunate very recently being back in the region to get a first-hand look at what's going on, and talk to the actual commanders on the ground," he said in Saint Andrews by-the-Sea, N. …

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