POLITICS

Chrystia Freeland: Facts Behind Syria Chemical Attack Needed Before Assigning Blame

04/05/2017 03:16 EDT | Updated 04/06/2017 08:58 EDT

OTTAWA – The facts behind the Syrian chemical weapons attack must be clearly established so those responsible can be held accountable, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday.

Freeland stopped short of blaming President Bashar Assad's government but she says it will be a "damning indictment" of him if that turns out to be the case.

"It is extremely important to hold accountable, at an individual level, the people responsible for this heinous attack," Freeland said Wednesday from Brussels, where she was attending an international conference on the future of Syria.

chrystia freeland

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stopped short of blaming President Bashar Assad's government for the attack but said it will be a "damning indictment" of him if that turns out to be the case. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The minister chose her words carefully, saying the investigation into the Tuesday's chemical attacks in Syria must essentially be bulletproof, so there is no doubt who is responsible.

Canada and the U.S. are the two leading funders of the United Nations organization that investigates the use of the chemical weapons, which will play a role in establishing the facts of the attacks, she said.

She said the international community must clearly investigate, identify who did it, and hold those to account. She said the findings must be presented "in a highly credible international [forum] so they cannot be disputed in any credible way."

Attacks have "hallmarks" of Assad government: Haley

Freeland urged all permanent members of the Security Council to support a resolution by the U.S., Britain and France condemning the use of chemical weapons and threatening consequences.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the attacks have "all the hallmarks" of Assad's government and the U.S. may take action if the UN Security Council fails to act.

The UN envoy for Russia, which backs Assad, opposes the resolution, saying it is based on information from "discredited" groups.

Freeland praised Haley's comments at the Security Council, saying the U.S. has an important role in resolving the ongoing conflict.

She said Haley has been "very active, very strong and very outspoken in the debate today at the Security Council and personally I would like to really commend the work that she has been doing today and the strong position she's been taking."

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