Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the forced landing of a Ryanair civilian flight and subsequent arrest of a journalist on board by Belarus was a “clear attack on democracy” that must be met by action.
His comments come as Belarus says it will shutter its embassy in Canada and as Western countries are weighing sanctions and cutting links with the authoritarian Eastern European state. Belarus scrambled a fighter jet on Sunday to intercept an Irish aircraft carrying dissident journalist Roman Protasevich in an act the airline’s CEO called a “hijacking.”
READ MORE: Belarus faces sanctions, aviation cut-off from Europe over Ryanair ‘hijacking’
Trudeau said the Canadian government condemns the arrest and supports taking action through “all available international institutions” including NATO — where members maintain the principle of collective defence by which an attack against one member is an attack against all.
“The behaviour of the Belarus regime is outrageous, illegal, and completely unacceptable. This was a clear attack on democracy and the freedom of the press. We condemn it and call for his immediate release,” said Trudeau, adding the behaviour marked “dangerous interference” in civil aviation.
“Canada has existing sanctions in place against Belarus and will be examining further options. We also strongly support action through all available international institutions, including the International Civil Aviation Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and NATO.”
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While Belarus is not a member of NATO, Ireland — where Ryanair is headquartered — is.
Article 5 of NATO’s treaty states that any member can invoke the principle of collective defence in the event of an “armed attack” against the member state.
Article 6 defines an “armed attack” as including an armed attack “on the forces, vessels, or aircraft” of any members of the alliance.
It is not yet clear what specific measures Canada is considering but Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau on Sunday criticized Belarus for “a serious interference in civil aviation and a clear attack on media freedom.”
Global News has reached out to the offices of both Garneau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan for more information, as well as for clarity on what measures the government would like to see through NATO.
Belarus announced on Tuesday it will close its embassy in Canada as of Sept. 1, 2021.
The consular section of the embassy will stop operations on July 10, 2021.
— More to come.
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