Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his full support for the American missile strikes in Syria – and opened the door to endorsing future attacks if need be – while insisting the international community must eventually return to the table to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Mr. Trudeau agreed with the U.S. assessment that this week’s chemical attacks on a civilian population in a rebel-held town were the work of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, which had to be punished to prevent further atrocities. Still, Canada has not been asked to change its military operation in the region, with the Americans more interested at this point in obtaining Mr. Trudeau’s support for its military intervention.
Speaking in the House of Commons, and then at a news conference in Halifax, Mr. Trudeau said that U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis informed Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan of the impending missile strikes about one hour ahead of time.
Mr. Trudeau spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday morning, expressing his support for America’s “limited, focused actions to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch such attacks.”
Mr. Trump did not ask Mr. Trudeau for any Canadian contributions during the conversation on Friday morning, according to a source, as the President was seeking political support from Canada. The leaders, who spoke during a break in Mr. Trump’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida, did not discuss any future military action in Syria.
In Halifax, Mr. Trudeau said Canada received information from the U.S. administration that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical attack earlier in the week. He did not close the door to supporting further U.S. military intervention in Syria.
“Those are determinations that obviously the international community will be seized with today and in coming days,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The Prime Minister said that the ultimate response will come through multilateral discussions.
“We all know that the long-term solution in Syria must be diplomatic, must be worked on by the international community,” Mr. Trudeau said.
“In my conversation with President Trump this morning, we talked about needing to continue to work together as strong allies in the international community to pursue a peaceful resolution for this conflict that has gone on far too long.”
While Canada is looking at all options for a solution, including continued talks with allies, the United Nations is unlikely to agree on one, according to Mr. Trudeau’s former foreign-policy adviser, Roland Paris. The UN Security Council has reached a stalemate on Syria, with Russia and China repeatedly blocking its attempts to sanction the Assad regime.
“It’s always worth continuing to try to achieve agreement in the Security Council, although in this case I think the chances are very remote because Russia has indicated again and again that it’s not interested in singling out Assad for criticism,” Mr. Paris said. “The international efforts have to work on many different channels at the same time.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told CTV's Power Play that the responsibility is now on Russia to act.
"Russia needs to pressure Assad to do the right thing. Russia needs to step up and act. What is very important is that the international community cannot be paralyzed by that Russia veto. And we won't be," Ms. Freeland said Friday.
The United States launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government air base Thursday night, days after a chemical weapons attack by government forces in Idlib province killed dozens of civilians.
A spokesperson for National Defence in Ottawa said early Friday that Canadian Forces personnel were not involved in the missile strike.
The statement added that Canadian operations in the region remain unchanged.
The federal government recently extended its military operation against the Islamic State in the region until the end of June. The deployment involves up to 830 military personnel conducting an air refuelling and surveillance mission, as well as a training and assistance mission with Iraqi security forces.
The Conservative Party responded with clear support for the U.S. intervention and criticism for the UN Security Council’s inability to deal with the crisis.
“The Conservative Party of Canada strongly supports the efforts of the United States to prevent Syria’s military from launching further chemical weapon attacks. The global community cannot sit idly by while deadly nerve toxins are unleashed on innocent civilians,” Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose said in a statement.
In a statement, the NDP said a successful response to the Syrian crisis must be multilateral and compatible with international law. It urged the Liberal government to step up efforts on the humanitarian front and increase its Syrian refugee resettlement commitment in light of the air strikes and chemical attack.
With a report from The Canadian PressReport Typo/Error
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