OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion has joined the United States in condemning Russia over the escalating fighting in Syria and failed efforts to end the war in that country.
Dion said in a statement Monday night that Russia’s actions on the ground over the past months "call into question" its commitment to peace and its ability to control what he called the "appalling actions of the Syrian regime."
His statement came after Washington suspended diplomatic contacts with Moscow over the war in Syria after Russian President Vladimir Putin put on hold a deal with the U.S. on disposing weapons-grade plutonium.
Dion, however, stopped short of suspending contacts. He said only that Canada recently called in Russia’s representative to express "grave concern" for the Syrian regime and the role Russian operations are playing in escalating the violence and suffering of civilians, particularly in Aleppo.
"Russia and the Syrian regime are failing to discriminate between terrorist targets and the civilian population," said Dion.
“Canada denounces the atrocious and ongoing attacks targeting medical facilities in Syria," said Dion, adding that attacks like the one last weekend on Dr. Hasan Al-Araj Hospital "perpetuate suffering and death" and do not help end a crisis he said has lasted far too long.
"Canada will continue to work closely with our partners and bilaterally to hold Russia and the Syrian regime to account. The path of dangerous belligerence will not succeed.”
The Obama administration said it decided to cut off discussions on Syria because Russia had not lived up to the terms of last month's agreement to restore a tattered cease-fire and ensure sustained deliveries of humanitarian aid to besieged cities, such as Aleppo, which has been under bombardment from Russian and Syrian forces.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the U.S. has "done all it could to destroy the atmosphere encouraging co-operation." It cited U.S. sanctions on Moscow over its annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and NATO's deployment of forces near Russian borders.
U.S. officials said despite the suspension of talks with Russia, they would continue to work for a truce and aid deliveries to Syria in other gatherings, including the International Syria Support Group, a collection of nations, including Russia.
Dion said Canada supports the U.S. and the other members of the group "in their tireless efforts to reduce the violence in Syria."
Russia intervened on behalf of its close ally Syria on Sept. 30 last year, joining President Bashar Assad's bombardment of both anti-Assad rebel groups and militant groups such as the Islamic State and Fatah al-Sham Front, an al-Qaida spinoff. Russia is interested in propping up Assad in part because Russia's only naval facility outside the former Soviet Union is on the Syrian coast.
Also Monday, the U.N. Security Council began negotiations on a draft resolution seeking an immediate truce in Aleppo and calling for an end to all military flights over the Syrian city. But Russia immediately rejected any grounding of aircraft and questioned whether a resolution at this time would actually produce any results.
— with files from The Associated Press
The Canadian Press