MacKay says no plans for Syria intervention
Defence co-operation agreements with Israel in the works
Canada is watching violence in Syria but stepping in would require more thought and possibly a UN resolution, Defence Minister Peter MacKay says.
MacKay spoke about Syria hours before meeting with Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak to talk about regional security and a series of agreements on defence cooperation between Canada and Israel.
As France pulls its ambassador from Damascus, Syria's capital, and the country's suspension from the Arab League takes effect, MacKay says any possible military action needs "further contemplation" and possibly a UN Security Council resolution "to mirror the path that we followed with respect to Libya."
"There's a number of things that would have to happen. It is a much more complex situation in many ways, given the circumstances on the ground in Syria," MacKay said Wednesday morning.
"But I can assure you in our capital and in capitals around the world, NATO countries are discussing what is happening in Syria."
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The mission in Libya was a UN-sanctioned NATO mission intended to protect civilians from attacks. That mission started in March and culminated with deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi being captured and killed in October. It has raised questions about why, with Syrian civilians facing similar danger, western countries haven't intervened.
In the House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada has imposed sanctions on the regime's key players and called on President Bashar al-Assad to resign.
"The campaign of violence and terror against the Syrian people must end," he said.
"Canada stands with the Syrian people at their time of need."
Baird also repeated a recommendation that any Canadians still in Syria leave the country while there are still commercial flights.
Defence agreements with Israel coming
The memoranda of understanding Canada and Israel are working on should be signed in the next 30 days, Barak said. The agreements encompass defence co-operation, including information and technology sharing, as well as exchange programs for Canadian and Israeli military training.
MacKay said the agreements will "further build on a strong foundation of co-operation that will bring tangible results not just to our two militaries, but to Canada and Israel more broadly."
Barak said Israel appreciates Canada's support on the world stage.
"We highly appreciate the relationship and friendship with Canada and we always envy you having for your neighbours being the Americans, the big ocean and the Arctic," he said.
While the two defence ministers were there to answer questions from reporters, a civil servant from the Department of National Defence made it to the microphone to ask his own question.
Identifying himself as Christopher Aikenhead, the man said the world appreciates Israel's efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and asked what more Israel could do to promote a nuclear-free Middle East.
A spokesman for MacKay called it an unfortunate and regrettable mistake.
"The ministers graciously addressed his question and the individual was informed of his error following the media availability. Defence department officials are looking into the matter further," Jay Paxton said in a statement.
Barak said Iran is a challenge for the world, not just Israel, referring to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that found Iran had looked into how to put a nuclear warhead on a missile that could reach Israel. He said it was time, even in the minds of the board of the IAEA, to "call a spade a spade."
"We said all along the way that we recommend to all friends around the world not to remove any option off the table and I'm glad to notice that many leaders in the world recently are just repeating this very phrase," Barak said.
MacKay said Syria's bloody uprising is likely to be discussed at an international security forum in Halifax Nov. 18-20.