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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Key Conservative ministers head to Israel

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John Baird, left, and James Flaherty are scheduled to visit Israel

Two high-ranking Canadian cabinet ministers are scheduled to visit Israel after attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting this week.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Finance Minister James Flaherty will both travel to Jerusalem in time for a dinner reception co-hosted by the Canadian Embassy and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ (CIJA) Israel bureau.

The Feb. 1 reception will celebrate the longstanding friendship between the two countries.

Baird and Flaherty are also scheduled to hold meetings with their Israeli counterparts, Avigdor Lieberman, minister of foreign affairs, and Yuval Steinitz, minister of finance, during their roughly week-long trip.

A spokesperson for Baird’s office confirmed the ministers would be travelling to Israel immediately after their meetings in Davos, although he could not comment on a specific itinerary. The World Economic Forum’s event runs from Jan. 25 to Jan. 29.

CIJA said it will host the Canadian delegation at the gala dinner in conjunction with the Canadian Embassy and the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation. Other Canadian delegates scheduled to take part in the trip include numerous CIJA board members and Mario Silva, the former Liberal MP for Davenport who was recently nominated to chair the Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research in 2013.

Shimon Fogel, CIJA’s CEO, told The CJN his organization was “delighted” the ministers are going to Israel.

“We think it’s a reflection of the level of qualitative collaboration and consultation between the two countries on so many different levels and across the spectrum of files,” he said. “There is a deep alliance that has emerged between the countries.”

Fogel said his organization had issued invitations to both Lieberman and Steinitz to attend the reception for the Canadian ministers, but as of the weekend, neither had confirmed their attendance. However, he expressed certainty that both Baird and Flaherty would meet with their counterparts and participate in a series of bilateral discussions that would also “extend beyond their direct counterparts as well.”

“I understand that there will be time spent with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres as well,” he added.

According to Fogel, most of the trip will be spent travelling within Israel, with Baird scheduled to make stops at Yad Vashem and present a keynote speech at the annual Herzliyah Conference and Flaherty scheduled to meet with members of Israel’s financial community.

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