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EU split over UK-France plan to arm Syria's rebels


brussels bureau

EU split over UK-France plan to arm Syria's rebels

Britain and France say the European Union arms embargo on the Syrian opposition must be lifted – if the rebels are to succeed in toppling the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The EU embargo has been in place since April 2011 – when the Syrian uprising was in its infancy.

Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels on March 15, French President François Hollande hit out at Russia, a key Damascus ally that has vetoed measures against Assad at the United Nations:

“It is two years this catastrophe has dragged on with certain countries providing weapons to Bashar al-Assad and Russia is clearly amongst them.

I believe Europe has to make this decision within the coming weeks,” Hollande said.

But Russia’s Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov rejected Hollande’s claims and warned against European intervention:

“I hope that neither Paris nor London regard the situation in Syria as a proxy war against Russia. I can say that Russia is not supplying weapons as such to Syria and is not arming the Syrian forces,” Chizkov said.

The Syrian National Council, an anti-Assad group, has warned that the EU must be cautious over who receives arms. Georges Chachan of the group said:

“Any delivery of weapons should continue until the opposition wins. These arms should only be given to the Free Syrian Army under the supervision of the internationally-recognised opposition.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautioned that arming the rebels could “fan the flames” of the conflict.

“The fact that two (EU members) have changed their minds is not enough for 25 to follow suit,” Merkel said.

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