Syria Chemical Weapons: Baird Says Canada Worried WMDs Could Fall Into The Wrong Hands

Posted: Updated:
Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, May 14, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick | CP

OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says discussions about a "post-Assad Syria" are underway, including what to do about the stockpile of chemical and biological weapons held by the country's regime.

Baird, who met Wednesday with Syrian and Syrian-Canadian human rights activists, said Canada is working with its allies to ensure the weapons don't fall into the wrong hands as the conflict reaches a climax.

"We're concerned about two things: them being used against the Syrian people, and two, we're concerned about their security both before and after the regime would fall," Baird said.

The wrong hands could belong to Islamic extremists, Baird suggested, including al-Qaida cells that have reportedly infiltrated the clashes between the regime of Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces, or other terrorist organizations.

The Israeli government has expressed concern that Lebanon's Hezbollah might try to secure some of the weapons of mass destruction. There has been a run on gas masks inside of Israel.

The Conservative government remains resistant to supporting military action in Syria, despite Baird's view that "there's no room for Assad in any effort to negotiate a solution."

"Just because a military solution worked in one part of the world, doesn't mean it will work in another," he said.

"I think there's a consensus among Canada and its allies and others that we need to continue to push hard on the diplomatic side. Obviously we share the frustration that we haven't met with success, but we're not simply going to throw in the towel."

Members of the Syrian National Council and the Syrian Canadian Council, as well as a Roman Catholic priest exiled from Syria after 30 years of interfaith work, pressed Baird during their meeting for more humanitarian assistance in the country.

Canada has currently earmarked $8.5 million for helping those caught up in the conflict, but the activists are asking for Baird to come up with $25 million.

"Hospitals in Syria have become detention centres, so a project that would finance mobile hospitals is a priority for us," said Faisal Al Azem.

Baird said Canada "can and does want to do more."

Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, an Italian-born Jesuit priest who ministered from a desert monastery outside of Damascus until he was exiled in June, suggested Canada could be using its expertise with Russia to help the cause.

Both Russia and China have blocked United Nations Security Council efforts to impose sanctions on Syria. Russian officials have pointed to evidence of al-Qaida cells in Syria as a rationale for not moving to oust Assad.

"There is plenty of work with Russia that is ongoing every day to fix issues related geographically with the (Arctic), so there are channels," said Dall'Oglio.

"There is knowledge, there is know-how about the relationship with Russia and geo-strategic exigencies. We ask Canada to use this know-how to start again a round of diplomacy activity."

Dall'Oglio added that Canada could help with peacekeeping or "peace promoting" efforts once the Assad regime falls and civil society must be bolstered.

Baird said earlier that he's had discussions with his Russian counterpart and the ambassador.

"I think Canada's voice has been very strong: Russia's actions, not inactions, are enabling this regime to soldier on."

Baird also noted Canada's alarm at the use of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft by Syrian troops.

On Wednesday, the regime beefed up its forces heading towards the commercial capital of Aleppo. Rebels have already moved into a large part of the city.

live blog

Oldest Newest

Share this:

Share this:
lebanon Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Share this:

France24 correspondents Matthieu Mabin and Sofia Amara report from the front lines of a rebel offensive against the Syrian army in Damascus.

Watch the exclusive report in the video below.

Share this:
syria This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)

Share this:

Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.

The AP gives more context:

Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.

Read more on HuffPost World.

Share this:
lebanon A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Share this:
@ KenRoth : UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted.

Share this:
syria Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

Share this:

Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.

"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.

Read more on HuffPost World.

Share this:
@ jenanmoussa : Graphic. We saw in a mosque in #Syria these 4 children staring at dead body. Pic by @HaraldDoornbos: #warsucks @akhbar

Share this:
lebanon Lebanese commandos ride in an armored personnel carrier in preparation to enter the area of clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. The civil war in Syria is affecting its fragile, tiny neighbor Lebanon in countless ways and has already spilled over into sectarian street clashes, kidnappings and general government paralysis.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Share this:

Activists say that Syrian security forces swept through two districts in Damascus on Wednesday, killing at least 31 suspected opposition fighters. The Associated Press reports that the army may have been targeting rebel teams that had been using the Nahr Eishah and Kfar Soussa neighborhoods to shell a nearby military airport.

Read more on HuffPost World.

Share this:
@ AP : Russia says Western powers are "openly instigating" opposition groups in Syria: -SC

Share this:

Share this:

Around the Web

Baird looks ahead to post-Assad Syria, but rejects military intervention

Canada open to expanding Syrian humanitarian aid

Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, priest expelled from Syria, will ask John Baird for ...

Syrian opposition meeting with Baird to press for more aid