POLITICS

John Baird: Syria's Assad Should Not Be Given Time To Hand Over Chemical Weapons

09/14/2013 07:01 EDT | Updated 11/14/2013 05:12 EST
AP
ISTANBUL - Canada's foreign minister John Baird is calling Syria's offer to begin providing information on its chemical arsenal 30 days after it signs an international convention banning such weapons "ridiculous and absurd."

Baird said Syrian President Bashar Assad could not be given extra time. Baird said: "This is a man, who up until a week ago denied that they had any such weapons."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who joined Baird at a news conference Saturday in Istanbul, also expressed skepticism, saying that Assad was playing for time while continuing to commit atrocities.

The comments come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were in Geneva negotiating a Russian proposal to inventory, isolate and eventually destroy Syria's chemical weapons stocks.

Kerry has rejected Syria's suggestion that it should turn over information, rather than weapons.

Davutoglu said Turkey welcomed the diplomatic initiative to remove Syria's chemical weapons, but it was still incumbent on the international community to bring to justice the Syrian officials responsible for crimes against humanity.

Western countries blame Assad for the use of chemical weapons, although he denies the charge and has accused rebels engaged in a 2-year-old civil war against his government of using lethal chemical agents.

Canada and Turkey have both called for a strong international response to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb that U.S. President Barack Obama said killed more than 1,400 civilians, nearly a third of them children.

Baird said on Friday that Turkey is a valued partner for Canada and shares a deep commitment to regional security.

The minister will also hold talks with business leaders in an attempt to advance Canada's economic interests in Turkey.

The two countries have begun exploratory discussions about a possible free-trade agreement.

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