Canada does not recognize Syrian opposition: Baird
Published Sunday, December 16, 2012 10:54AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 17, 2012 7:36AM EST
Canada will not join the United States and other governments in recognizing the opposition as Syria's legitimate "government-in-waiting."
In an interview with CTV's Question Period Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he had carefully considered the move, but has decided the conditions aren't in place yet.
"We're prepared to work with them, we're prepared to engage with them, but we're not prepared to recognize them as the sole, legitimate voice, government-in-waiting of the Syrian people," Baird said.
Two issues factored into the decision, he explained, starting with the need for any future government in Syria to be "truly representative" of all the ethnic and religious populations that live there.
In addition, Baird noted a small number of "radical extremists" involved in the rebel military campaign.
"So we'll work with them, we'll engage with them, but I think we're going to fall short of recognizing them."
At a conference in Morocco last week, representatives from more than 100 countries agreed to recognize the Syrian National Coalition, formed at a November meeting in Qatar, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian population.
Baird told CTV's Kevin Newman he had a constructive meeting "for the better part of an hour" with the opposition chairman last week, after which the decision was made.
"We raised these concerns and certainly committed Canada would do more to provide support to the Syrian people," he said.
- Watch the complete interview with Question Period host Kevin Newman on CTV Sunday at 11 a.m. in Ontario, Quebec & Manitoba; noon in Atlantic Canada, 2 p.m. in B.C.; 3 p.m. in Alberta & Saskatchewan
Instead of joining the governments recognizing the opposition last week, Canada announced a $15 million boost in humanitarian aid to help Syria's neighbours accommodate the mass influx of refugees.
Baird also pledged $5 million more for Jordan, on top of the $6.5 million Canada announced earlier this year. As well, another $10 million will go to international aid agencies that are helping refugees.
Canada also pledged $1.5 million in protective personal equipment to Jordan in the event of a chemical or biological weapons attack in Syria.
In 20 months of fighting, clashes between rebel forces and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad has left an estimated 2 million people displaced and 40,000 dead.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press