Address by Minister Baird at the Friends of Syria Meeting

February 24, 2012 – Tunis, Tunisia

Check Against Delivery

Canada welcomes the convening of this first meeting of the Friends of Syria. I would like to express my appreciation to Tunisia for hosting and chairing this meeting.

The creation of this friends group is a demonstration of the solidarity of the international community with the people of Syria in the face of the savage violence unleashed by the Assad regime against its own people.

The targeting of journalists, including those killed earlier this week, is unacceptable and further demonstrates the indiscriminate nature of the Assad regime’s violence. Syria’s denial of access to the international media and most humanitarian organizations will not succeed in hiding the barbarity of the Assad regime from the world.

We must urgently address the emerging humanitarian crisis in Syria. After meeting with the Secretary-General of the Arab League yesterday, I am pleased to announce that Canada will provide an additional $1.5 million to help alleviate the real suffering of the Syrian people.

We call on Syria to immediately allow full, safe, rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance to all those in need.

The Assad regime’s campaign of terror has prompted us to impose tough sanctions on the regime and its supporters. Canada calls on all states to join in isolating the current Syrian regime until Assad and his supporters stop their atrocities against innocent Syrian civilians. 

All countries must stop the supply of arms to Assad’s regime, which is engaged in killing its own people.

The impressive leadership of the Arab League in attempting to bring an end to this crisis is both welcome and essential. I also want to single out the impressive leadership of Turkey on this issue. We welcome the appointment of Kofi Annan as the Joint Arab League-UN special envoy for Syria.

It is time for the Assad regime to implement an immediate, unconditional and permanent ceasefire. It is also time for him to go.

Finally, this important meeting is an opportunity to strongly support all those in Syria fighting for freedom and democracy.

The opposition needs to develop a clear vision for a post-Assad era. Canada strongly believes that the protection of religious minorities must be an important part of that plan. The basic rights of every Syrian must be respected.

We stand ready to help the Syrian people build a new, free and democratic Syria that respects the human rights of all of its people and lives in peace with its neighbours.

The people of Syria can count on Canada to stand with them in their current struggle for freedom and against the oppressive Assad regime. Canada stands ready to help them build a brighter future for Syrians living in peace with their neighbours.