Harper rules out arms for Syrian rebels, blasts Russians
Published Sunday, June 16, 2013 6:08PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, June 16, 2013 11:50PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper ruled out Sunday providing military arms support to Syrian rebels, saying any help from Canada in the region will be in the form of humanitarian aid.
Speaking in Dublin where he met with Irish President Enda Kenny, Harper said it’s important for allies to work together to end to the ongoing conflict. He did not rule out Canada’s involvement in other future international efforts to do so.
“We are not contemplating arming the opposition in Syria,” Harper said.
"I understand -- fully understand -- why our allies would do that, particularly given recent actions by Russia, Iran and others. But our aid, at the present time and our aid for now, will continue to be humanitarian aid."
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration announced that it will give Syrian rebels military aid, in light of evidence it said proves Assad has used chemical weapons during the two-year conflict in Syria.
On Friday, Harper said he is convinced that Assad has been using chemical weapons, adding his voice to a growing chorus of international leaders condemning the Syrian leader.
Harper did not rule out using non-humanitarian aid in the future.
Such a move could involve the Canadian military supplying weapons or providing air support should a no-fly zone be established in the region, a move the U.S. is currently contemplating.
On the eve of the two-day gathering of world leaders in Northern Ireland, Harper also blasted Vladimir Putin’s support for the Syrian government, and expressed doubt that the Russian president would show an about-face during talks.
“Look, I think that dialogue will be interesting. I think it’s important to have that kind of dialogue. But I don’t think we should fool ourselves. This is G7 plus one,” Harper said.
Syria’s ongoing civil war is expected to top of the agenda at the summit.
“We in the west have a very different perspective on this situation,” Harper said. “Mr. Putin and his government are supporting the thugs of the Assad regime for their own reasons that I do not think are justifiable, and Mr. Putin knows my view on that."
"But we will not, unless there's a big shift of position on his part, we're not going to get a common position with him at the G8."
Putin adds fuel to fire
Russia, which is funneling weapons to Assad’s regime, has disputed claims of that chemical weapons are being used, and has said U.S. evidence comes up short.
On Sunday, Putin met in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is hosting the G8 summit.
In a joint press conference, both leaders expressed hope that Syria’s rebel and government forces could find a resolution at upcoming peace talks in Geneva.
But the differences between the two leaders’ was evident when Putin, responding to Cameron remarks referring to Assad as a “murderous dictator” came to the defence of the government regime.
“There’s always a question of who is to blame. I believe you will not deny the fact that one hardly should back those who kill their enemies and eat their organs and all that is filmed,” Putin said to reporters via translator. “Do you want to support arms to these people?”
Putin was referring to footage showing a rebel fighter eating what appears to be the heart of a dead Syrian soldier.
Syria is expected to be at the top of the agenda at the G8 talks, which begin Monday.