Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau backed air strikes by the United States and its allies on Syria’s chemical weapons program but Argentina, Brazil and Peru voiced caution during a regional summit about the escalating military action.
Speaking at the Summit of the Americas in Peru, Trudeau and several other Western Hemisphere leaders forcefully condemned the use of chemical weapons, following a suspected poison gas attack last week in a Damascus suburb that killed up to 75 people and sparked international outcry.
Washington blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government for the attack and, together with Britain and France, launched missile strikes overnight on what it said were Syrian chemical weapons facilities.
“Canada stands with our friends in this necessary response and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week’s attack,” Trudeau said in his speech. “Those responsible must be brought to justice.”
But the retaliatory action drew pleas for caution from several Latin American countries.
“There’s deep concern in Brazil with the escalation of military conflict in Syria,” Brazilian President Michel Temer told the summit. “It’s time to find permanent solutions based on international law to a war that has been going for far too long and ended too many lives.”
Peru, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, called for moderation from all parties involved in Syria and said it was working to find a political solution, according to a foreign ministry statement.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri also appealed for greater coordination on Syria “in the framework of existing international commitments”, remarks later echoed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Outside the summit, the strikes drew swift condemnation from left-leaning governments in Bolivia and Cuba, outspoken critics of US influence.
But Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a close US ally in Latin America, appeared to back Washington as he condemned chemical weapons.
“We support actions to punish their use and seek their total elimination,” Santos said.
The Pentagon said the missile strikes in Syria had hit every target. It said the military action was aimed at delivering an unambiguous signal to the Syrian government and deterring the future use of chemical weapons.