Full Text: The G8 Declaration on Syria (pdf)
On Friday June 14th, the United States and President Barack Obama announced they would now be arming Syria rebels’ civil war fight against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. would be sending small arms. The Obama Administration declared there was proof that Assad used chemical weapons on his citizens, a red line for the United States that would trigger military aid intervention.
With the United States now arming the Syrian rebels and Britain and France leaning towards doing the same, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is feeling the pressure to take a more concrete position. Canada does not have invested interests in Syria, but Israel, a close ally is affected by the situation in Syria and the Assad regime is closely aligning itself with Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that denies Israel’s existence.
Harper’s rhetoric demonstrated the he was leaning closer to the position shared by the U.S., Britain and France stating to the press from France on Friday, June 14th that; “We share the view of our allies, I think, based on the evidence before us, that there have been uses of chemical weapons in Syria by the regime…. And as you know, the position of Canada on the regime is clear: we want to see Assad depart power and we want to see a regime that is representative of the entire population of Syria, which the Assad regime in its present form can never be,” Harper said.
Harper however, reasserted that he would not pledge arms; “We are not in Canada, at the present time, we are not contemplating arming the opposition in Syria. I understand – fully understand – why our allies would do that, particularly given recent actions by Russia, Iran and others. But our aid, at the present time and our aid for now, will continue to be humanitarian aid.” Harper did agree to increase the humanitarian Canada will give the rebels.
Syria became a major issue at the G8 Summit, where the leaders of seven of the nations in attendance stood against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position on Syria. Russia’s Putin is the only leader that still supports Assad’s regime with the majority of countries in opposition to his regime and supporting in variable levels the rebel opposition.
After meeting Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Harper spoke to Canadian reporters, telling them; “I don’t think we should fool ourselves. This is G7 plus one. OK, let’s be blunt. We in the West have a very 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’re not going to get a common position with him at the G8.”
Harper continued by stating how important it is to resolve the civil war conflict, and ensure Syria becomes a democratic nation, devoid of terrorists. “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,” Harper stated
Putin spent the two days at the Summit refusing to agree to any statement that declares that Assad needed to be ousted from Syria’s leadership. Putin says the rebels are cannibals, based on a video that shows a rebel soldier eating an organ of his victim, a government soldier; “You will not deny the fact that one hardly should back those who kill their enemies, and eat their organs and film all of that. Do you want to supply arms to these people?” Putin stated in a joint press conference with Britain’s PM Cameron.
Seven leaders at the G8 Summit were adamant about issuing a declaration on the civil war in Syria by the end of the summit. Putin however, refused to participate in any statement that called for Assad’s ouster, prompting the remaining leaders to consider issuing the statement without Russia’s Putin.
All the leaders were increasingly isolating Putin at the G8. On the evening of the first day of the summit, the leaders had a tense meeting discussing Syria. Both British PM David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama publicly showed their displeasure with Putin’s unwavering position after the meeting.
After a bilateral meeting between Obama and Putin, Putin agreed to be involved with the statement on Syria. The Declaration on Syria did not mention removing Assad from his post, but rather emphasized peaceful means to end the conflict through a peace conference in Geneva, Switzerland. However, the seven-point plan did discuss instituting a transitional government.
Harper was pleased with the outcome of the G8 Summit declaration on Syria. Harper made a statement to the press at the end of the summit. He expressed his surprise and satisfaction over Putin and Russia’s changed of heart over Syria, and Putin’s decision to compromise and sign the declaration. “It is very clear that what the Russians have moved towards, what all of us have said, is that we now want to see a transition in Syria. And I think it’s spelled out very clearly – a transition to a government that is broadly representative. I don’t think that can be interpreted in any way, shape or form as support for the current regime as it is. So I think this was a very significant move on the part of Mr. Putin and the Russians.”
“We have a very different outcome here and a much better outcome than I thought we were going to have. We don’t have, as I said, G7 plus one. We have a genuine G8 statement,” Harper expressed. The G8 Summit accomplished one of its main goals by unifying the eight leaders into finding a concrete solution to the Syrian conflict that will bring democracy to the war torn nation.
Text: Main points of G8 summit communique
Full Text: G8 Declaration on Syria (pdf)
PM Stephen Harper’s Statement at the conclusion of the G-8 Lough Erne Summit, June 18, 2013
PM Stephen Harper delivers remarks in Dublin, Ireland, June 16, 2013
Canadian support to the ongoing conflict in Syria, June 17, 2013
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & International politics.