Facts of Syrian gas attacks need to be established to assign blame: Freeland

Facts of Syrian attack needed: Freeland

OTTAWA — The facts behind the Syrian chemical weapons attack must be clearly established so those responsible can be held accountable, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday.

Freeland stopped short of directly blaming President Bashar Assad’s government for the attack, but said it would be a “damning indictment” of him if that turned out to be the case.

“It is extremely important to hold accountable, at an individual level, the people responsible for this heinous attack,” Freeland said Wednesday from Brussels, where she was attending an international conference on the future of Syria.

The minister chose her words carefully, saying the investigation into Tuesday’s chemical attacks must essentially be bulletproof, so there is no doubt who is responsible.

Freeland said Canada and the U.S. are the two leading funders of the United Nations organization that investigates the use of the chemical weapons, which will play a role in establishing the facts of the attacks.

She said the international community must investigate, identify who did it, and hold them to account. She said the findings must be presented “in a highly credible international fora … so they cannot be disputed in any credible way.”

Freeland urged all permanent members of the Security Council to support a resolution by the U.S., Britain and France condemning the use of chemical weapons and threatening consequences.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the attacks have “all the hallmarks” of Assad’s government and the U.S. may take action if the UN Security Council fails to act.

The UN envoy for Russia, which backs Assad, opposes the resolution, saying it is based on information from “discredited” groups.

Freeland praised Haley’s comments at the Security Council, saying the U.S. has an important role in resolving the ongoing conflict.

She said Haley has been “very active, very strong and very outspoken in the debate today at the Security Council and personally I would like to really commend the work that she has been doing today and the strong position she’s been taking.”

Donald Trump refused to say Wednesday what action the U.S. might take against Assad. But the president adjusted his view of Assad, blaming him for the attack, after saying just days ago that removing him from power was not a priority.

“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies â€” babies, little babies â€” with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines,” Trump said.

One of Freeland’s Liberal colleagues, Omar Alghabra, the parliamentary secretary for consular affairs, called the allegation against Assad “credible,” given his government’s past use of chemical weapons.

“But I can’t say that for certain because we need an independent party to verify that.”

Alghabra said the ongoing Syrian conflict is frustrating, given his personal connections to the carnage.

“My background is Syrian. I still have family in Syria, so watching these horrific images and hearing about these stories are heartbreaking,” he said.

“We need to talk to Russia. We need to talk to other players in the region to ensure that they understand the consequences of continuing this.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Union files human rights complaint over Chilliwack school trustee’s LGBTQ comments

Board and trustee Barry Neufled facing $50,000 tribunal charge over alleged ‘unsafe work environment’

Pipeline routing through Chilliwack subject of NEB hearing Monday

City of Chilliwack, WaterWealth Project and local Sto:lo intervenors in the hearing

Chilliwack curler qualifies for 2018 B.C. Winter Games

Naomi Britz will travel to Kamloops next month to curl for Ashley Mallett’s rink.

Chilliwack truck driver killed in Alberta semi truck crash

Young driver was adjusting load on side of highway to Fort McMurray

Men accused in Michael Bonin’s murder knew him: IHIT

20-year-old’s body found on a rural service road North of Hope in April

Senior randomly stabbed in B.C. mall food court

Woman arrested after victim, 71, suffers serious injuries

VIDEO: Southern schemes on stage in Langley

The farce of “The Foreigner”

B.C. Liberal hopefuls begin final leadership push

Five MLAs, one outsider pitch policies to party members

Vancouver Island marijuana producer bought by Aphria in $230M deal

Aphria’s annual production forecast increases to 230,000 kgs

UPDATED: ‘Young, innocent’ teen hit during Vancouver shootout dies

15-year-old Coquitlam boy was in a car driving by the scene

Drivers urged to slow down during Alex Fraser Bridge construction

Work crews are installing a snow removal system and movable counterflow lane

Ontario man charged with selling Canadian’s usernames and passwords

Ontario man ran site that peddled billions of pieces of personal data: RCMP

Video: B.C. documentary features Okanagan ice climbing

First documentary for Penticton filmmaker captures elusive Okanagan ice climbing

Most Read