Baird: Canada worried about Syrian weapons
Published Wednesday, July 25, 2012 12:51PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 25, 2012 10:45PM EDT
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada is concerned about the possibility that Syrian weapons of mass destruction could fall into the wrong hands.
He says Canada and its allies are worried that chemical and biological weapons stockpiled by Bashar al-Assad's regime could either be used against opponents, or by other extremist groups.
There has been evidence that al Qaeda jihadists have been infiltrating the crisis in Syria.
Baird says Canada is still hoping for a diplomatic solution to the conflict, saying that not every situation requires military action.
Baird met with members of the Syrian opposition and with Syrian-Canadian representatives in his office and promised that Canada would offer more humanitarian and medical aid to Syrian refugees.
Canada is already the third largest donor to the Syrian crisis. Since the uprising began in March, Canada has pledged $8.5 million in humanitarian assistance.
The U.S. recently doubled its commitment to US$60 million, and the United Kingdom has pledged $27.5 million.
But the United Nations says at least $382 million is needed to help the hundreds of thousands of Syrians trying to escape the ongoing violence in Syria that began 16 months ago.
Nearly 115,000 Syrians have already fled to neighbouring countries and are living as refugees. Some 40,000 refugees are currently being sheltered in 10 camps near Turkey's 900-kilometre border with Syria.
Jordan has taken 33,400 refugees, while 30,900 have arrived in Lebanon. Another 7,900 have sought sanctuary in Iraq.
In more recent developments, the Syrian regime sent fighter jets over the city of Aleppo, a United Nations world heritage site, to bomb the rebel forces.
Also Wednesday, Turkey sealed its border with Syria to trucks, citing deteriorating security. Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said three border crossings were in rebel hands.
He added, though, that Syrians seeking refuge or to resupply would still be allowed in.
With reports from The Canadian Press