Canada and Mexico are exploring joint participation in a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Colombia as part of a pending peace treaty to end a half-century-old guerrilla war.
Paulo Carreno King, Mexico's undersecretary for North America, said he has held talks with senior Canadian officials about involving Canada in peacekeeping operations in Latin America under the UN mandate.
He cited Colombia as a country that Canada and Mexico discussed as a joint operation once a peace treaty is signed between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a conflict that has left 260,000 dead, 45,000 missing and 6.6 million uprooted.
The two sides have been negotiating a peace deal for more than three years in a bid to end the conflict.
A deadline for a final peace deal was missed in March, but Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said this month that his government hoped to conclude a peace deal with the FARC rebels "in the very near future."
The Colombian government and FARC have asked the United Nations to provide an unarmed peacekeeping mission to verify a bilateral ceasefire and disarmament agreement.
"Canada is the father of peacekeeping and this government is interested in reactivating their participation in peacekeeping operations," Mr. Carreno said in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "Colombia is a place where we just signed to be more active in peacekeeping operations."
Honduras and Guatemala – among the world's most dangerous countries – are also possible places where Canada and Mexico could conduct joint UN peacekeeping operations, he said. Violence, driven by drug gangs, is one of the main factors driving mass migration from Central America.
Renee Filiatrault, the communications director for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, would not discuss specific missions under discussions but said Canada is looking at various options for peacekeeping.
"We have made a commitment to increase support for UN peacekeeping and we are currently consulting with the United Nations, regional organizations and allies to inform and assess were it might be best suited," she said.
Mr. Carreno was in Ottawa to help plan for the state visit by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, which will take place days before U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for the North American Leaders' summit on June 29.
Mr. Carreno said he expects Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon rescind a visa requirement for Mexicans, imposed in 2009 by the former Conservative government to stem a spike in refugee claims.
In return, Mexico will share security and background information on Mexicans travelling to Canada, similar to what is done between Canada and the United States.
"What the Mexican government will do is to help them by providing all the information that is necessary and the co-operation that they need," Mr. Carreno said.
More than 1.7 million Canadians travelled to Mexico in 2015 compared to 180,000 Mexicans visiting Canada. When the visa requirement is lifted, Mr. Carreno said he expects "we can at least double those numbers, if not more."
Mr. Carreno, who is also President Pena Nieto's emissary to the North American Leaders' summit, said the leaders are expected to announce a number of environmental initiatives including new continental environmental regulations, steps to phase out methane gases and Mexico's undertaking to reduce lead in gasoline.
Mr. Carreno said there is a "sense of a whole new dynamic" in the relationship between Canada and Mexico since Mr. Trudeau came to power.
With a report from Reuters