Washington, August 6, 2011 – Canada and the United States oppose
military intervention in Somalia despite evidence the Islamic militant
group al-Shabab is blocking famine relief in parts of the
drought-ravaged nation that are under its control.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton emerged from their first bilateral meeting on Thursday united in
their approach to ending the humanitarian disaster in Somalia and
responding to the Syrian regime’s violent crackdown on protesters.
“At this time, we are not contemplating military action” in Somalia, Mr.
Baird said. “Obviously, both countries have experience from that.”
He was referring to the participation of Canadian and U.S. troops in the
1992-93 United Nations-sanctioned effort to clear the way for food and
medical aid after the Somali government’s collapse.
The Canadian military’s reputation and morale were deeply damaged when
it emerged that a Somali teenager had been beaten to death by Canadian
soldiers during the mission, an incident known as the Somalia Affair. A
public inquiry led to the disbanding of the elite Canadian Airborne
Regiment, to which the soldiers had belonged.
With severe food shortages again threatening the lives of millions of
Somalis, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs
said on Thursday that it expected famine to spread across all parts of
southern Somalia in the coming six weeks and last at least until the end
of the year.
But while aid is reaching Somalis at camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, and
some parts of the country including the capital Mogadishu, it is blocked
from huge swaths of southern and central Somalia that are controlled by
the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab.
Ms. Clinton called on leaders of the Islamic militant group to “allow
assistance to be delivered in an absolutely unfettered way.” She
suggested outside military intervention could hamper the work of aid
“There is more than enough work for the international community to help
save lives even without having to worry about the al-Shabab-controlled
areas,” Ms. Clinton said. “At the end of the day, the best way to get
aid into those areas is to get al-Shabab to actually care for the
She added that the United States would suspend application of its
so-called Patriot Act with respect to aid workers who might
inadvertently provide support to al-Shabab, a terrorist group that is
known to impose taxes on aid organizations seeking to enter territory it
While both Canada and the United States are participating in the
five-month NATO bombing campaign to protect Libyan rebels from Moammar
Gadhafi’s forces, Ms. Clinton and Mr. Baird said more work is needed to
line up support from other countries before tougher actions are taken
against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We need to get a much louder and more effective chorus of voices that
are putting pressure on the Assad regime,” Ms. Clinton said. “We are
working very hard to increase that international will.”
She reported progress, however, saying that Wednesday’s United Nations
Security Council statement, which condemned the violence in Syria,
“could not have happened a week ago.”
Although it blamed Mr. al-Assad for the violence, the Security Council
did not call for his departure, and Ms. Clinton only reiterated the U.S.
position that he “has lost the legitimacy to govern the Syrian people.”
Mr. Baird called the crackdown by the al-Assad regime, including the
Syrian military’s brutal attacks on civilians this week in the city of
Hama, “abhorrent” and “absolutely disgraceful.”
He added that, “regrettably, we don’t have the same amount of
international support” that existed when the Security Council authorized
military action in Libya in March. But Mr. Baird said Canada had worked
with the United States and United Kingdom to strengthen sanctions
against the al-Assad regime.
On a controversial Canadian oil project, Ms. Clinton confirmed the State
Department will decide whether to approve TransCanada Corp.’s proposed
Keystone XL pipeline extension by the end of the year. The State
Department expects a final environmental-impact statement this month on
the pipeline, which is intended to expand the amount of oil from
Alberta’s oil sands that can be shipped south.
“Safety of the pipeline is one of our highest priorities,” Ms. Clinton
said. “We have worked diligently to make sure we have a full
understanding of all of the consequences.”
Source: Globe and Mail