Baird announces new sanctions on Syria, takes aim at Russia
Published Friday, July 6, 2012 6:05AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 6, 2012 10:23PM EDT
Canada joined the U.S. in launching a diplomatic salvo against Russia on Friday, accusing the nation of standing in the way of a solution to the ongoing violence in Syria.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird attended a meeting of the Friends of Syria in Paris on Friday, then hosted a teleconference in which he said Ottawa is introducing new sanctions against the regime.
Baird said Canada is "horrified" by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
But he called on Russia, Syria's closest ally, as well as China, to stop protecting the Assad regime.
"I think we all acknowledge that Russia is the significant obstacle here," Baird told a teleconference.
"It is not merely blocking UN Security Council sanctions, it is enabling this regime to soldier on. They need to reflect on the role they want to play in the civilized world.
Baird said Canada was in lockstep with the U.S., the E.U. and the Arab League on the Syria issue, and said "Hillary Clinton was as tough as I have ever seen her today," in discussing Syria.
Because both Moscow and Beijing have veto power on the United Nations Security Council, their support is essential if Assad is to be forced into abiding by a ceasefire and transition plan.
"What can every nation and group represented here do?" Clinton asked at the meeting. "I ask you to reach out to Russia and China, and to not only urge but demand that they get off the sidelines and begin to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people."
Neither Russia nor China sent diplomats to the conference.
In a statement earlier Friday, Baird took direct aim at Assad.
"The daily assault on the people of Syria by the Assad regime continues to throw this country into further chaos," Baird said in a statement.
"Canada is horrified by Assad's lack of respect for human life and in turn is responding with additional measures to further isolate and increase pressure on the regime."
Baird said Canada is introducing new prohibitions that will further ban the exportation of goods or technology that "could be used to further repress the people of Syria."
For example, Canada is banning the exportation of a longer list of goods that could be used to produce chemical and biological weapons beyond what has already been covered in previous sanctions.
As well, the Syria International Islamic Bank and the Syrian National Security Bureau are being added to the list of entities prohibited from doing business in Canada.
"Our expanded sanctions aim to target the regime, not the Syrian people," Baird said. "We continue to call on the United Nations Security Council to adopt tough, binding sanctions.
Meanwhile, Assad faced new pressure from other international leaders earlier Friday, as they reacted to the defection of one of Assad's key generals.
The U.S. spearheaded the attack, rallying its international partners and calling for global sanctions against Assad's regime.
Washington also urged its partners to pressure China and Russia to force Assad to step down.
The renewed efforts to force an end to Assad's dictatorship come after 16 months of violence and as many as 14,000 deaths since the revolt against Assad began, according to activists.
The trigger appears to have been the defection of Syrian Brig.-Gen. Manaf Tlass. A former member of the elite Republican Guards, and the son of a former defence minister, Tlass was considered a staunch ally and friend of Assad's until his apparent defection.
"The defection of Tlass will encourage a lot of similar people to defect as well," said Hassem Hashimi, a member of Syria's opposition National Council, who spoke with The Associated Press and described Tlass as a powerful figure within the regime.
Tlass' whereabouts are unclear, with varying reports saying he had fled to either Turkey or Paris.
After months of international diplomacy that has accomplished little, Syria's deeply divided opposition is urging the international community to forego more talks, and instead launch military intervention.
"We're sick of meetings and deadlines. We want action on the ground," said activist Osama Kayal in the northern city of Khan Sheikhoun, which has been under Syrian army fire for days. He spoke via Skype from a nearby village.
However, military intervention appears unlikely due to unwillingness by the U.S. to step in, as well as Russia and China's ability to block such a move by the Security Council.
Diplomats in Paris, meanwhile, called on opposition members to stand together and put their differences behind them.