Baird wary of Syrian deceit and stalling with Russian plan UN bound

OTTAWA – Canada is wary of continued Syrian deceit as the United Nations is poised to consider a resolution to turn over the country’s chemical weapons stockpile, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday.

Baird made clear it would not be easy to trust the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to comply with the proposed plan that could avert a possible U.S. military strike.

“Trusting the regime to comply with any commitment after years of deceit would be a challenge. We want to ensure this proposal is not merely a delay tactic,” Baird said in a statement Tuesday.

“While skeptical of the regime, we will continue to follow events at the United Nations Security Council closely and continue to work with our international partners going forward.”

Baird’s assessment came as the U.S. and France pushed for a tough UN resolution that would keep the military option on the table against Syria.

Syria said Tuesday it would co-operate fully with a new Russian plan that would see the Assad regime place its chemical weapons under international control and eventually be destroyed.

Canada has backed the U.S. and France in its plan to launch a military strike on Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds outside Damascus last month.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada has no plans to take part in any military mission against Syria.

Harper found himself in the middle of the global impasse between Russia — Syria’s main backer — and the U.S. at the Russian-hosted G20 summit in St. Petersburg last week.

“As noted in the statement signed at the G20, we support efforts being undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons,” Baird said.

A senior government official, who was not authorized to speak for attribution, said Canada’s continuing support of the U.S. includes this new non-military option that has now reached the UN.

The official said Canada’s support of the U.S. remains unwavering in the face of its skepticism toward Syria.

In his statement, Baird said Canada has always been in favour of a political solution to halt the more than two years of bloodshed in Syria.

President Barack Obama was to address the American public late Tuesday amid waning domestic U.S. support for a strike.

Obama had originally intended to use the televised address to make his case for a forceful military strike against the Assad regime. The U.S. and other allies, including Canada, say the Assad regime is responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack. The Assad regime blames rebels.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told a Lebanese television network that Syria would place its chemical weapons locations in the hands of representatives of Russia, “other countries” and the UN.

Moreover, he said Syria would declare its long secret chemical arsenal, stop producing such weapons and sign conventions against them.

“Destroying these chemical weapons which the regime has denied even having for years, would be in the best interest of the entire region and all Syrians,” said Baird.

“Actions will speak louder than words. Canada will wait to see what the particulars are for securing and destroying the entirety of the Assad regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons immediately.”

— with files from the Associated Press