Baird leaves door open to further contributions in Mali

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada is leaving the door open to further contributions in support of the French-led mission in Mali, following a meeting with the ambassadors of France, Mali and the Ivory Coast.

Canada puts diplomatic pressure on Mali to return to democratic rule

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird talks about Canada's support role in the crisis in Mali 9:01

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is leaving the door open to further contributions in support of the French-led mission in Mali, following a meeting with the ambassadors of France, Mali and the Ivory Coast.

In an interview airing Wednesday on CBC's Power & Politics, Baird said while Canada has committed to a C-17 military transport plane for approximately a week, "obviously, if France has other requests, we'll consider them in a thoughtful way, as you'd expect."

"There's no doubt there's going to be assistance required on a humanitarian basis, or supporting Mali's neighbours or the people of Mali, and obviously we'll reflect on these issues in the days to come," said Baird. But Baird repeated Canada's position that Canadian troops would not be placed "on the ground."

Baird hosted the ambassadors to Canada — Philippe Zeller of France, Traoré Ami Diallo of Mali and N'Goran Kouamé of Côte d’Ivoire — in Ottawa Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation in Mali. Ivory Coast is currently chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is involved in the mission in Mali.

Baird told host Evan Solomon that he emerged from the meeting with the three ambassadors with a better understanding of France's objectives, a sense of the "huge impact" the insurgency is having on the people of Mali and "the important role that the neighbours of Mali will play in tackling these challenges."

While Baird was hosting the ambassadors, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke by phone to French President François Hollande to discuss the situation in Mali.

Minister of Defence Peter MacKay, wearing the blue suit, speaks with Canadian force members of the 429 squadron at CFB Trenton, in Trenton, Ont., Tuesday. Canada has sent a C-17 Globemaster to France to help out with the conflict in Mali. (Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press)

Harper expressed his support for France's "direct engagement" in Mali and "reiterated Canada's pledge to work with allies to address the situation," according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office. 

Baird said he would report back "in very short order" to the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues on what he had learned from his meeting with the ambassadors.

Prior to the meeting, an official within the Foreign Affairs Department told CBC News that it was intended to be "very much a listening session" and that the event is "a part of our ongoing monitoring of the situation in Mali since the coup of last March. This is part of the diplomatic efforts alluded to by the prime minister last week."

Part of the diplomatic effort, however, included a browbeating issued Tuesday by the Canadian government through its ambassador in Mali, Louis de Lormier.

Lormier was asked to deliver what is called a démarche — a form of diplomatic protest — to government officials in Mali.

Foreign affairs spokesman Rick Roth explained Tuesday, "We want to encourage [Mali] not to lose sight of, or minimize, the need for Mali to return to democratic and constitutional rule. This means holding elections that are free and fair at the earliest practical opportunity."

The démarche goes further, blaming the security crisis on Mali's government.

"The coup in March 2012 undermined Mali's progress as a democracy and provided Islamist extremists with a window that has had devastating consequences," Roth said.

Canadian C-17 headed to Mali

The Canadian military operation to support the French-led mission in Mali is "going smoothly" and within "expectations," according to officials at the Department of National Defence.

A Canadian C-17 military transport plane has arrived at a base in France and will leave for the Mali capital of Bamako once it is loaded with heavy equipment, said Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter Mackay.

Paxton told CBC News the plane will likely arrive in Bamako on Thursday and will operate in a non-combat role.

The transport plane left CFB Trenton on Tuesday afternoon, the second aircraft prepared for the mission after the first C-17 experienced a problem with its generator.

With files from Amanda Pfeffer