Smoke rises from the Damascus suburb of Douma
Credits: REUTERS/Moataz al-Qanawati
OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is leaving open the question of whether Canada's military could get involved in the volatile situation in Syria.
With reports emerging that France could intervene in Syria over fears the Bashar al-Assad regime is loading missiles with chemical warheads, interim Liberal leader Bob Rae asked Baird whether Canada might be part of any international response.
The minister was non-committal.
"We're obviously deeply concerned," Baird said. "I think President Obama spoke loudly and clearly for the civilized world when he said these actions, if they did follow through on them, would be absolutely unacceptable and there would be serious consequences to be paid."
Paris-based media have reported that France may lead air strikes against Syrian chemical weapons and air defence installations.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the situation in Syria is "top of mind" for him.
"There's a full spectrum of response that NATO has been examining as to how we prevent further loss off civilian life," he said Thursday. "Canada has to continue to prepare for those inevitabilities that could bring us into a higher tempo of operation."
HMCS Regina is already nearby in the Arabian Sea for counter-terrorism operations.
It's not clear whether the federal government would allow the frigate to take part in any international operation off Syria's coast.
Meantime, Syria's deputy foreign minister has dismissed Western fears over chemical weapons as a "pretext for intervention."
He also insists chemical weapons wouldn't be used within the country's borders anyway.
- with files from Reuters