Syrian regime must face consequences, Baird says
Canadian foreign affairs minister met with head of Syrian National Council this afternoon
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the world must respond to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime or risk the weapons being used again in Syria and in future conflicts.
Baird said he agreed with comments by British Foreign Secretary William Hague that the world needs to respond.
"In 2013, that someone could use these type of weapons of mass destruction with impunity would not only set a very bad precedent for the ongoing conflict in Syria, but also, frankly, would give a green light to any dictator to use these weapons of mass destruction against their own people in future conflicts," Baird said in Montreal.
"We are of one mind that these weapons have been used and that a firm international response is needed."
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Baird made the remark after meeting with George Sabra, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC), this afternoon, amid intensifying talk of possible military strikes on Syria.
Baird said it's not clear yet how Canada could contribute to a possible military intervention.
"There are discussions going on as to the exact nature of what our response could be. I think some have speculated in the media and elsewhere that it could involve cruise missiles or armed drones, neither of which Canada has," he said.
"We'll let decisions be made before we know whether we have even the capacity to contribute militarily."
Canada's support of U.S.-led military action against Syria is likely to be only symbolic, in a strike that could last as little as a day, a NATO source told The Canadian Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Baird briefed opposition colleagues
Baird said he doesn't think U.S. President Barack Obama has decided what to do.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, speaking at his party's caucus retreat in P.E.I., said all Canadian parliamentarians are united in horror at what is going on in Syria and in their desire to help.
"I am fully expecting that Canada will have a role to play in helping the Syrian people. What exactly that will be is a decision for Parliament, which is why we'd like to see Parliament back and discussing it," Trudeau said.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also suggested Parliament would have to be called back to discuss intervention in Syria, explaining that Prime Minister Stephen Harper tends to put military action to a vote.
Baird suggested it wasn't clear whether that would happen.
"Some would like Parliament recalled. We haven't made the decision, or don't know whether we have the capacity, to be a part of any military engagement, which by all accounts would be limited in focus," he said.
Andrew MacDougall, director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, repeated Tuesday that it is "premature to discuss roles" that Canada could play in an eventual military operation.
Baird said earlier this week that Canada is "incredibly outraged" by a chemical weapons attack on Syrians last week. He has said the idea that the attack could have been perpetrated by rebel fighters is "patently ridiculous," although he said the only way to end the bloodshed is through a political solution.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Baird confirmed that the cabinet minister has spoken to NDP and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Sabra, whose coalition is based in Istanbul, Turkey, has been meeting members of the Syrian-Canadian community in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto since late last week.
Sabra and Baird, however, don't appear to agree on how to end the bloodshed in the war-torn country.
In contrast to Baird, Sabra said he no longer believes a political solution is possible, when so many Syrians have been killed or forced from their homes.
"We have one million children living in refugee camps," Sabra told The Canadian Press in an interview Saturday.
"In this environment, who can talk about a political solution?"
Sabra said he wants to see action from Obama, who has said he considers chemical weapons a "red line" in the conflict. But he said Canada should also play a larger role.
"When we think about Canada, we think about human rights. We expect a special role from Canada in this field," Sabra said.
Syria's foreign minister has said any force will be met with force through "all available means."
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With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News