The European Union agreed Monday to lift its embargo against arming Syrian rebels, but no member state intends to send any arms in the coming months for fear of endangering a US-Russia peace initiative.
After a gruelling 12 hours of talks in Brussels, British foreign secretary William Hague announced the deal to lift the arms embargo against the rebels, while maintaining the remainder of a far-reaching two-year package of sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Without such a deal, the entire set of sanctions, including an assets freeze on Assad and his cronies, and restrictions on trade in oil and financial transactions, would have lapsed at midnight on Friday.
However splits within the EU were exposed. Britain and France championed the lifting of the arms embargo while Austria, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic were reticent about pouring more arms into a conflict that has already cost some 94,000 lives.
To send arms is “against the principles” of Europe which is a “community of peace”, said Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, a longtime outspoken opponent of the move.
A French official in Paris stressed that “this is a theoretical lifting of the embargo. In concrete terms, there will be no decision on any deliveries before August 1”.
‘Hope move will be implemented’
Beirut: Rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President appealed EU to implement its decision to lift its arms embargo.
“We wanted this (decision) to be taken earlier... We hope this decision will be effective and not just be words,” said Kassem Saadeddine, spokesman for the joint command of the Free Syrian Army.
However, in Damascus, Essam Khalil, a member of the parliament for the ruling Baath Party, criticised the EU decision.AFP
France set to probe samples
Paris: Russia’s deputy foreign minister says the European Union’s decision to lift an arms embargo to Syrian opposition undermines the efforts of both Russia and the US to mediate peace talks in Geneva next month.
The EU said its member states within days will be able to send weapons to help Syria’s outgunned rebels after its current embargo expires this week, seeking to pressure President Bashar al-Assad’s regime ahead of planned peace talks. AP
Three lebanese Soldiers killed
BAALBECK: Unknown gunmen killed three Lebanese soldiers near the Syria border late Monday night, an official said on Tuesday, in the deadliest such attack since the start of the Syrian revolt more than two years ago.
“Three soldiers were killed by armed men while they were in a vehicle east of Arsal,” the security official said, referring to a town in northeastern Lebanon.
No army spokesman was available for comment and there were no further details immediately available. AFP