Canada's Trudeau seeks to rescue faltering U.N. bid on Africa trip

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves for Africa on Thursday to revive what diplomats say is a faltering bid for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council.

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa as he arrives for the official welcoming ceremony for outreach countries and International Organizations at the G7 Summit in the Charlevoix town of La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Failure to win would be embarrassing for the Liberal Party leader. He came to power in November 2015 promising that “Canada is back” after nine years of a Conservative administration that was often suspicious of the world body and failed to win a council seat in 2010.

“The bid is not going well,” said a diplomatic source with direct knowledge of Canada’s campaign. The source requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.

Canada, Ireland and Norway are vying for two seats that open up in 2021-2022. Voting will be held on June 17.

“It is a tight race; we’re facing strong competition. There’s a lot of work to be done,” said a second source, who is in the Canadian government.

Trudeau will meet African leaders in Addis Ababa at the annual African Union summit before heading to Senegal.

Africa has 54 of 193 votes at the U.N., but senior Canadian government figures have largely ignored the continent since Trudeau first took office in 2015, as they focused on dealing with U.S. President Donald Trump and North American trade talks.

“Part of the reason Canada is not back is Donald Trump, pure and simple,” said Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor of international affairs at Ottawa’s Carleton University.

Last month Canada’s new Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne visited Morocco as well as Mali, where Canada had peacekeepers stationed for a year, and said he was cautiously optimistic about the bid.

Canada though spends much less of its gross domestic product on foreign aid than Norway and Ireland.

Successful campaigns also depend on lobbying envoys at the United Nations, where officials and diplomats said Canada’s Ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard was working effectively.

Several Ottawa sources said Canada strongly suspected Saudi Arabia was campaigning against the bid. Riyadh expelled the Canadian ambassador in 2018 after Ottawa urged the release of women’s rights activists.

Neither the Saudi government communications office nor Trudeau’s office responded to requests for comment on the Saudi position.

Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin in Riyadh; Editing by Amran Abocar and Cynthia Osterman