OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird singled out Russia on Thursday for standing in the way of efforts to end an escalating civil war in Syria and oust a regime that produces the world’s scariest chemical weapons.
Baird made the comments just before Russia and China rejected Canada’s position and again used their veto at the United Nations to quash a resolution that called for non-military sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We’ve been troubled by a number of countries led by Russia who have stopped international efforts,” Baird told CFRA radio in Ottawa. He didn't mention China.
Baird, like his international counterparts the day before, said he fears the conflict that has killed an estimated 17,000 Syrians in 17 months, is “spiralling out of control” and could lead to the use of chemical weapons on civilians.
“It is a well-known fact that they (the Assad regime) possess chemical weapons and we’re concerned about the security of those weapons and that they might even be used,” Baird said.
Intelligence experts say Syria has the largest cache of chemical weapons in the Middle East, including sarin and the deadliest nerve agent ever created, VX, and that many are already loaded inside warheads and artillery shells.
Baird said Canada would take every diplomatic action it could to convince UN holdouts on the Security Council to support sanctions, and ruled out foreign military intervention as fighting increases in Damascus — the scene of a bomb blast Wednesday that killed key Assad loyalists.
The U.S., Israel and other countries in the region are concerned about the security of the chemicals and the consequences if they fall into the wrong hands.