G8 Leaders convene in Northern Ireland Monday. France, the United Kingdom, and the United States will be leading the charge to take some action on Syria where, those three countries have concluded, dictator Bashar al-Assad has been using chemical weapons to gas his own people. Canada agrees with its allies on that issue though Canada does not believe it is time to arm Assad’s opponents.
But Canada and its allies certainly believe it is time for Russia to stop giving Assad the arms he is using to kill his own people. So Hollande, Cameron, Obama, and Harper are likely to gang-tackle Putin on Syria. Or maybe not. Harper, in a blunt admission today during a press conference in Dublin, said he has no expectations Putin is going to change. How can he say that? Harper and Putin had a long one-on-one meeting at the APEC summit last fall in Vladivostok, Russia. There, Harper challenged Putin on Syria. In response, Putin called Harper a “Trotskyite”. (Click here for more info on that)
Here’s my transcript of what Harper said today ahead of Monday’s G8 on Syria and Putin:
I don’t think there’s any differences in what we’re saying in our government. [i.e. between Harper and Baird] Obviously we do not favour the maintenance of the Assad regime. We’re very clear on that. We’ve been very clear with all of our allies. That really is our bottom line. Obviously we want to see the opposition in Syria become more representative, less sectarian. We do worry about extremist elements in the opposition. We’ve been very clear about that. That is a position also shared by our allies. We may have different degrees of concern here but we do broadly share that. We are not in Canada at the present time, we are not contemplating arming the opposition in Syria. I understand fully why our allies would do that, particularly given recent actions by Russia, Iran and others. But our aid, at the present time, our aid for now will continue to be humanitarian aid. You ask a good question about dialogue will have with Mr. Putin and the Russians on this. I think that dialogue will be interesting. I think it’s important to have that kind of dialogue but I don’t think we should fool ourselves. This is G7+1. Let’s be blunt. That’s what this is. G7+1. We in the West have a very different different perspective on this situation. Mr. Putin and his government are supporting the thugs of the Assad regime for their own reasons that I do not think are justifiable and Mr. Putin knows my view on that. But we will not, unless there’s a big shift of position on his part, we are not going to get a common position with him at the G8. I think what’s important is that we continue to work with our allies in the G7 and in NATO to see how we can move the situation in a positive direction where we get the transition towards a government that is genuinely representative, broadly based, democratic, not a threat to the world, and certainly not embracing of terrorist or extremist elements.
Meanwhile, Putin is telling reporters that Assad’s opponents do not deserve the West’s support because they are cannibals:
“One does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras,” Putin [told reporters in London]. “Are these the people you want to support? Are they the ones you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to the humanitarian values preached in Europe for hundreds of years.”
Should be a fun G8.