Canada has joined its allies in a co-ordinated expulsion of Syriandiplomats, as the Assad regime continues to engage in brutalviolence against its own people. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement earlyTuesday that despite calls from around the world asking PresidentBashar al-Assad for a ceasefire, his regime's "reprehensiblecampaign of savage violence continues unabated." All Syrian diplomats now have five days to leave Canada, includingthe Ottawa-based charg daffaires, Bashar Akbik. The embassy'swebsite also lists Yasser Kherdaji as the head of mission inSyria's consolate in Toronto. Speaking to reporters on Parliament Hill later Tuesday morning,Baird said the government was "deeply offended and outraged by theactions that occurred in Syria this past weekend by the governmentand thugs supporting the government" in the Syrian village ofHoula. "One of the most fundamental responsibilities that governments haveis to protect their people. |
Assad for more than a year now haswaged war on his own people," Baird said. At least 30 children under the age of 10 were among the dead in theMay 25 massacre in Houla, and reports suggest families weresummarily executed in their homes, according to the United Nations. "Canada is acting in a co-ordinated effort with our closestpartners who are pursuing similar actions," Baird's statement said. The U.S.
State Department announced on Tuesday that the Syriancharg d affaires in Washington, Zuheir Jabbour, was beingexpelled from the United States. "We hold the Syrian government responsible for this slaughter ofinnocent lives. This massacre is the most unambiguous indictment todate of the Syrian government s flagrant violations of its UNSecurity Council obligations," the State Department release said. Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Australia alsoannounced expulsions of Syrian diplomats posted in their respectivecountries Tuesday. "These Syrian representatives are not welcome in our countrieswhile their masters in Damascus continue to perpetrate theirheinous and murderous acts," the Baird statement said.
Only two Syrian diplomats are believed to be in Canada at themoment. Another Syrian diplomat awaiting passage to Ottawa fromSyria will be refused entry. Previous sanctions Canada had increased sanctions against the Assad regime as theviolence escalated over the last year, but had not yet taken thestep of expelling its diplomats. Canada previously froze all assets and prohibited all dealings withmembers of the Syrian government and its central bank. It alsoprohibits new investments in the Syrian petroleum industry, inwhich Canada remains a significant player.
Canada is the third-largest direct foreign investor in Syria,thanks to its participation in the oil and gas sector. Targeted sanctions now in force include a ban of all imports fromSyria into Canada, including petroleum products but excluding foodfor human consumption. Most recently, Canada banned the export of all luxury goods toSyria on May 18. All diplomats posted to the Syrian embassy in Ottawa have five daysto leave Canada. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) Baird announced on March 5 that Canada had suspended operations atits embassy and consulate in Syria.
All Canadian diplomats haveleft the country. "We are not interested in doing any kind of business or any kind ofpolitical engagement with this government," Baird's parliamentarysecretary Deepak Obhrai told CBC News Tuesday, saying the regimehas "blood on its hands." Baird is calling on the UN to bring in tough Security Councileconomic sanctions against the Assad regime, building on theactions that Canada, the European Union, the United States and theArab League have taken. But he also told reporters that militaryaction is not something being contemplated "at this time." Crisis escalating Syrian opposition groups , inspired by revolutions in places like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen,began to hold protests in March 2011 in cities including Daraa, Homs, Hama and Latakia . Government forces responded to the protests with a number oftactics, from shutting off water and cutting off food supplies todeploying tanks and snipers to drive people off the streets.
Casualties are difficult to confirm, but UN estimated in March that9,000 had died up to that point. Opposition group estimates now putthe death toll at more than 13,000 since the violence began. International outrage against Syria intensified May 28, with Chinaand Russia speaking out against the continuing violence. Earlier inthe crisis, these two permanent members of the UN's SecurityCouncil had resisted collective action against Syria. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has called repeatedly for anend to the violence in Syria, emphasizing that President Basharal-Assad must go.
(Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press) "Their condemnation on the weekend was welcome," Baird said,speaking of the Russians specifically. "We can only hope they'velost patience with Assad." "Russia obviously has a privileged commercial and politicalrelationship with Syria. We hope they'll use that to get atimetable for Assad to go," Baird told reporters. "All roads lead to Moscow right now.
We have to put pressure on theRussians... to get something through the Security Council," NDPforeign affairs critic Paul Dewar said on CBC News Network onTuesday. "Syria needs to be sent a message," Dewar said, adding that the NDPis negotiating with the government and other parties to work on amotion that could pass unanimously in the House of Commonscondemning the violence, to put more diplomatic pressure on Russia,strengthen the UN's mandate to intervene and support refugeesfleeing the violence. UN mediator Kofi Annan is in Damascus, sayind earlier this weekhe's "shocked and horrified" by the killings in Houla . There are fears that the violence in Syria could spread beyond itsborders.
Syrian rebels kidnapped 11 Lebanese Shias and a Syrian driver in northern Syria last week,fueling fears that Lebanon is getting drawn into the chaos nextdoor, security officials said. Some Lebanese took to the streets of Beirut's southern sector, aShia area, and burned tires to protest the abductions. The leaderof Hezbollah, Lebanon's powerful Shia militant group and a strongally of Syria, appealed for calm and warned his followers againstrevenge attacks targeting Syrians. Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar, who was detained and tortured in Syriaas a terrorist suspect for more than a year after being extraditedby American officials, wrote on Twitter that today's expulsionswere merely a "face-saving tactic" on Canada's part. "Too little, too late," Arar wrote.
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