Peace­keep­ing plan ‘a work in progress,’ says UN of­fi­cial

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Lee BERTHIAUME — Jean-Pierre Lacroix

OT­TAWA — While Cana­dian of­fi­cials and the United Na­tions have been fu­ri­ously try­ing to iron out the de­tails of Canada’s long-awaited peace­keep­ing plans, one se­nior UN of­fi­cial says no fi­nal de­ci­sions have been made – even with Van­cou­ver play­ing host to a two-day sum­mit on the sub­ject start­ing to­day.

“It’s a work in progress,” Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the un­der­sec­re­tary gen­eral for peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions, said Mon­day in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press.

“It looks like there are a num­ber of av­enues that have been ex­plored quite thor­oughly. But we’re wait­ing for the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to come up with a fi­nal de­ci­sion.”

The rev­e­la­tion comes as the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment pre­pares to host rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 80 coun­tries at a ma­jor peace­keep­ing sum­mit in Van­cou­ver start­ing to­day.

It was widely ex­pected that the Lib­er­als would an­nounce their plans to de­ploy peace­keep­ers ei­ther be­fore or at the sum­mit, more than a year af­ter promis­ing up to 600 troops and 150 po­lice of­fi­cers for UN mis­sions.

But Lacroix’s com­ments pour cold wa­ter on that idea, and are likely to dis­ap­point – if not spark out­right crit­i­cism – from many of the for­eign dig­ni­taries and de­fence ex­perts sched­uled to at­tend the two-day meet­ing.

Nonethe­less, Lacroix, who is re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing all peace­keep­ing oper­a­tions, said he was “en­cour­aged” that there is fi­nally some move­ment af­ter more than a year of de­lays and si­lence from Canada.

“Things are mov­ing, and it’s not frus­trat­ing, it’s rather en­cour­ag­ing,” he said. “Now, given the needs, I would be quite happy if the de­lays are rather short than long. But then again, I am quite en­cour­aged by the lat­est evo­lu­tion.”

Sources say the gov­ern­ment has put sev­eral of­fers on the ta­ble for the UN’s con­sid­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing the de­ploy­ment of he­li­copters to help in Mali, and a trans­port plane in Uganda to as­sist dif­fer­ent mis­sions in Africa.

Canada is also re­port­edly ready to pro­vide a rapid-re­ac­tion force in the Golan Heights be­tween Is­rael and Syria; con­trib­ute to the UN’s new po­lice mis­sion in Haiti; and send train­ers to help other coun­tries be­come bet­ter at peace­keep­ing.

Lacroix would not com­ment on the gov­ern­ment’s of­fers, but did say dis­cus­sions on “when and how and where these po­ten­tial con­tri­bu­tions would be used and where they would make a dif­fer­ence, that’s where we are.”

The fact spe­cific de­tails re­main in the works nonethe­less comes as a bit of a sur­prise, given ex­pec­ta­tions the gov­ern­ment would an­nounce its plan for de­ploy­ing peace­keep­ers at this week’s sum­mit, if not ear­lier.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is sched­uled to ap­pear at the meet­ing Wed­nes­day with Lacroix as well as De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan and For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land.

The sum­mit is only for coun­tries that have made – or are ready to make – con­crete pledges to peace­keep­ing, and some UN of­fi­cials, for­eign diplo­mats and ex­perts have warned Canada will be em­bar­rassed if it doesn’t de­liver.

Yet while the Lib­er­als have been crit­i­cized for drag­ging their feet on a de­ci­sion for more than a year, Lacroix said the UN hasn’t been sit­ting around wait­ing for Canada to make a com­mit­ment.

Things are mov­ing, and it’s not frus­trat­ing, it’s rather en­cour­ag­ing.


Rel­a­tives weep over the body of an earth­quake vic­tim in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, Iran, on Mon­day.

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