OTTAWA, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- About 5,000 Canadians in violence-wracked Syria should get out of the country as quickly as possible, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird warned Thursday.
At an Ottawa news conference, Baird said 10 months of political rioting and harsh government response was coming to a head, Postmedia News reported.
"The time to leave Syria is now," Baird said. "The writing on the wall could not be more clear."
The minister said children of Canadian diplomats had already been relocated to an undisclosed location, while embassy officials in Damascus had been instructed to expedite others' evacuation.
"The government is ready to provide specialized consular services to those who wish to leave," he said.
Baird's call came on the heels of an announcement by the Arab League it was imposing restrictions on air travel into and out of Syria as retaliation for President Bashar Assad's refusal to draw down his troops against demonstrators.
"I must warn that should Canadians stay in Syria, we will not be able to guarantee the current service at our embassy or that commercial options to leave the country will remain available," the minister said.