Baird says political solution in Syria 'becoming more and more difficult'
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada still believes a political solution is the best way to end the violence in Syria, but he concedes that is “becoming more and more difficult as the crisis enters a very dangerous new phase.”
Baird used his strongest words yet to condemn the ongoing violence in Syria Monday, the same day that United Nations inspectors came under sniper fire as they travelled to a Damascus suburb where a suspected chemical weapons attack occurred last week.
Baird said the attacks on UN inspectors “are absolutely abhorrent and we condemn them in the strongest of terms.” He called on Syria to allow the UN inspectors unfettered access to the site of the alleged attack with full protection.
“Anything else is completely unacceptable,” he said.
A UN spokesperson said a vehicle carrying the UN inspectors was shot at “multiple times” in an area between rebel- and government-controlled territory. The Syrian government accused rebels of shooting at the inspectors, while an opposition spokesperson accused the government of ordering the attack.
The team was on its way to the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack that occurred on Aug. 21 that aid agency Doctors Without Borders says killed 355 people and rebels say killed more than 1,300.
Syrian President Bashar al Assad has denied that his soldiers used chemical weapons in last week’s attacks.
Baird’s language on Syria changed from Friday. On Monday, the word “alleged” was gone from his statement when referring to the chemical weapons attacks.
“Canada is incredibly outraged by the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Baird said Monday, during a press conference announcing efforts to promote religious freedom around the world. “Such an attack demands a firm response from the international community.”
When asked about whether Canada would get involved in an international military option, Baird said he would wait until all of the information is in from the UN representatives on the ground in Syria.
But in his statement, Baird condemned the inability of Russia, Syria’s ally, and the UN Security Council to halt the violence, and said Canada “will continue to work closely with our international partners to review a full range of options going forward.
“As for the Syrian regime, its actions in the coming hours and days will speak louder than words.”
Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair said Monday that if a military intervention is planned in Syria, “Parliament has to be reconvened,” to decide Canada’s role.
He said world powers should work through the agencies designed to deal with international crises, and if military action is “the conclusion of the United Nations, then of course you can be part of that.”
Mulcair told reporters on Parliament Hill that “the world’s got to step up to the plate” to end chemical weapons attacks on citizens.
“To see a government in the 2st century gassing its own citizens is an abomination and the world has to move against that,” he said.
Baird to meet Syrian opposition group leader
Meanwhile, Baird will meet Wednesday in Montreal with George Sabra, president of the Syrian National Council, the main Western-backed opposition group in Syria.
Sabra called on the international community, including Canada, to step in to stop attacks on civilians, as well as to aid the more than one million refugees that have left Syria and poured into neighbouring countries.
He told CTV News Channel that he would like to see Western powers arm the rebels, and said a military strike is necessary, “at least to prevent (Assad) from still using these kinds of weapons and also for using jet fighters and scud rockets…this drama should be stopped.”