Address by Minister Baird to Friends of the Syrian People Meeting

December 12, 2012 - Marrakesh, Morocco

Check Against Delivery

Let me start by commending the generosity of Syria’s neighbouring states and others in the region who have welcomed hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing the violence wrought by a despotic dictator who only cares about clinging to power. We recognize the immense pressure that the influx of refugees is placing on host countries and communities.

We must continue to work together as a global community—through the Friends of the Syrian People—to end the financial, material and diplomatic support that the Assad regime continues to receive. The effective implementation of targeted sanctions, enhanced diplomatic pressure on Syria’s few remaining allies and broader efforts to isolate the regime hold out the best hope at this stage to end the war and bring justice, freedom and dignity to the Syrian people.

But at the end of the day, it is the Syrian people themselves who will determine the future path for their country. Canada is very encouraged by efforts to unite the Syrian opposition. The formation of the Syrian National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces was a great step forward I want to congratulate them for their courage.

Canada encourages the Coalition to continue to reach out to all minorities in Syria to create a united and credible alternative that can bring peace, stability and democracy to Syria.

I am pleased to announce that Canada is providing $5 million in material support to Jordan to assist in handling the large influx of Syrian refugees. This is in addition to the $6.5 million that I announced this past summer for assistance to Jordan.

Canada will also be providing an additional $10 million in humanitarian assistance to address the needs of those affected by the crisis in Syria, bringing our total humanitarian assistance to $22 million.

These will be ongoing challenges in an increasingly worrying environment. Canada is concerned by the rise in terrorist activity inside Syria and signs of growing sectarianism fuelled by those who wish to sow disunity rather than unity and who seek exclusivity rather than inclusiveness.

We remain deeply concerned about the potential loss of control over chemical weapons stockpiles, MANPADS [man-portable air-defense systems] and other conventional weapons, which could pose a wider global and regional threat.

But we are not only concerned; we are taking concrete actions to prepare for the worst.

We will work with the United States to provide the Jordanian armed forces with $1.5 million worth of personal protective equipment to guard them against a potential chemical weapons and biological incident arising from Syria.

We must also remain vigilant against influences and outcomes that will only prolong the violence and instability that threaten the entire region.

As friends of the Syrian people, we have a responsibility to work with the people of the new Syria to ensure that the country that emerges from the horrors of today is capable of taking its rightful, but long vacant, place among the community of responsible nations, willing and able to play a constructive role in the region and beyond.

Thank you.

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