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Canadian Ambassador: Syrian Massacre Is Another ‘Horrific Incident’

May 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Responding to Syria's weekend massacre, United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan met with President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday -- asserting that the country had reached "a tipping point" in bloodshed. Judy Woodruff and Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer discuss ongoing global debate over how to stop the violence inside the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman said the U.S. holds the Syrian government responsible for the massacre.

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that doesn’t mean U.S. military action is in the offing.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: You never — and we haven’t in this case — removed options from the table. We do not believe that militarization, further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action. We believe that it would lead to greater chaos, greater carnage.

JUDY WOODRUFF: For more, we turn to Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the United States.

I spoke with him a short time ago.

Ambassador Gary Doer, thank you very much for talking with us.

GARY DOER, Canadian ambassador to the United States: Well, thank you for having me on.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What does Canada accomplish by expelling Syrian diplomats?

GARY DOER: Well, I think it was — we expelled all of the diplomats today.

We think it’s again a continuation of our and condemnation of the regime in Syria. We’re obviously horrified, as is the world, of the slaughter of so many innocent people, including women and children, in Syria.

We have participated in sanctions. Obviously, we want the U.N. envoy to succeed, but we’re taking action. But, obviously, with the lack of implementation of the cease-fire over and over and over again, we are obviously very, very concerned about the innocent people in Syria.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As you just heard in that report, President Assad continues to say that this — what happened was a result of terrorists in his country.

GARY DOER: Well, a number of journalists and a number of other observers stated that it was — they clearly are holding him accountable for these deaths, these murders, really. And I think, obviously, everyone is calling for verification.

But there’s strong evidence and strong belief in the world that he is responsible.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And in addition, the Russians, who have been part of this most recent U.N. agreement, supposedly cease-fire agreement, they continue to say that both sides are responsible, that it’s not just the Assad government, but it’s the opposition groups.

GARY DOER: Well, obviously, backing up, we would have preferred Russia to join the other countries on the Security Council with stronger action in Syria. They chose to not participate. That’s also been criticized by a number of countries.

We would much prefer a stronger stand by Russia, including after the weekend’s events. They have said they want third-party verification and independent verification. Having said that, I think most of the independent observers right now have spoken. And certainly Canada shares their assessment of how this happened and who is responsible.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Doer, there is some discussion now about a so-called Yemen-like solution, where, as in Yemen, the — President Assad might be — might agree to leave, others in his government would step up.

Are you hearing anything about any sort of an agreement like that?

GARY DOER: I haven’t heard that.

Obviously, the reports come out about different options for the implementation of the position that Canada and the United States share. Assad must go. And there’s different options to do that. Obviously, we prefer a diplomatic solution for his departure from Syria.

I’m not aware of the specifics of that, but people have floated all kinds of ideas. There’s been other op-ed pieces about Russia taking greater responsibility for the situation and taking greater leadership, but so far that certainly hasn’t taken place either.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What more does Canada believe needs to be done? The U.S. position is, it’s not the right moment or it isn’t the right situation to send in military forces. That’s Canada’s view as well?

GARY DOER: Well, we — that’s Canada’s view as well. We’re going to work with the United States and our — European countries and other countries in trying to deal with the options for Syria.

We did deal and work together with the United States and European countries on Libya, but to just take the Libyan situation and transfer it over to Syria, you can’t do that. The United States believes that. We believe that. We worked together in that situation to protect people, but we had a path forward.

This one is a much more complicated issue. I wish it wasn’t. And I wish it was — I mean, it’s clear that innocent people are being killed, and that is in itself, for all of us, all of us who believe in humanity — anybody that is a parent or anyone else that sees the slaughter of young children and families, it’s just horrific. It’s horrible.

We obviously want to see the diplomatic solutions to implement the cease-fire, but it’s obviously not working to date.

JUDY WOODRUFF: If it’s not working, then what more has to be done or should be done, do you think?

GARY DOER: We’ve got to continue to work as a world community. There’s more like-minded countries working together to try to find a solution, sanctions, diplomats, sanctions that are resulting on tremendous economic pressure in Syria.

But we also have to be honest to say the cease-fire hasn’t been implemented, and that’s one of the six conditions the U.S. — U.N. envoy set down in — with an agreement in Syria, and it hasn’t been implemented.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But how frustrating is it for Canada, for you, as somebody who works in diplomacy to watch what is happening?

GARY DOER: Oh, it’s horrible. It’s horrible for all of us. It’s horrible for any world citizen who believes in the protection of innocent people to not have a cease-fire that was agreed upon broke — that cease-fire is broken over and over and over again.

So we’re continuing to use diplomatic means. A military option, as the U.S. has indicated, is not right in — right in front of us or available to us at this point. But everybody is talking with each other about how we can be more effective.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And if the Annan plan — I mean, once everyone is in agreement that the Annan plan isn’t working, which is what you have just said, what is next?

GARY DOER: Well, he had another meeting today.

But the bottom line is, he’s had an agreement on a cease-fire as part of the six-point plan, and obviously most independent observers believe again over the weekend the cease-fire didn’t — wasn’t implemented and it had horrific consequences for people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: How much of an obstacle to finding a solution is it, Mr. Ambassador, that there is — there are apparently serious divisions among the opposition in Syria? Or is that. . .

GARY DOER: Well, there’s different analysis of the opposition, and there’s different people in the opposition. So, there’s not a kind of view that’s necessarily clear and unambiguous about the opposition.

Having said that, the real issue here is Assad and his inability to implement his word to implement a cease-fire. And the consequences of that are the killing of innocent people. And that’s why the world community continues to talk, to discuss, act on sanctions and diplomatic relations being severed, but still keeping communications with people in Syria, which is also very important.

But, obviously, it’s a horrible situation. It’s a horrific incident over the weekend that preceded — was preceded by other horrific situations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Ambassador Gary Doer of Canada, thank you very much for talking with us.

GARY DOER: Thank you very much.