Canada can help efforts in Mali without sending troops: Baird
Published Wednesday, January 16, 2013 7:08PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2013 7:14PM EST
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Ottawa will “reflect” on its involvement in Mali after a meeting with French and African ambassadors, but there are still no plans to send Canadian troops to the troubled nation.
Baird met with the ambassadors of France, Mali and the Ivory Coast Wednesday, a day after Canada sent a C-17 military transport plane to provide support to French troops in Mali’s volatile north, occupied by al Qaeda-linked rebels.
The ambassadors filled Baird in on the current situation in Mali and the military efforts to stop the rebels from infiltrating southern parts of the country.
“What we’re doing now is reflecting on what we learned today,” Baird told CTV’s Power Play after the meeting.
While French soldiers fight the rebels alongside troops from neighbouring African nations, Ottawa has pledged logistical support for the mission, but ruled out sending Canadian troops to Mali.
Canada’s C-17 plane is expected to remain in Mali for one week. Harper said Wednesday that he spoke over the phone with French president Francois Hollande, who thanked Canada for its support.
“There is no doubt that the situation has escalated,” Baird said. “We welcome the French leadership in this regard but we think there’s also got to be African leadership, particularly from West Africa.”
“A big part of the solution has got to be how can we help Mali’s neighbours provide support to Mali.”
In the meantime, Canada can assist France “in a variety of ways,” such as providing humanitarian aid, he said.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, France’s ambassador to Canada, Philippe Zeller, told The Canadian Press that his country is also looking for financial support from Canada and other countries.
"Of course, it's up to Canada," Zeller said, noting that a United Nations resolution from last month allows countries to finance the international mission in Mali.
Zeller also said it’s his understanding that “every opportunity to help and intervene is still on the table” for Canada, except for sending troops to Mali.
Britain and Germany are also sending two military aircraft each, while the U.S. said it would help with intelligence gathering efforts.
On the ground, fresh troops from Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and other African countries will join the counter-attacks against the rebels.
With files from The Canadian Press