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The site where a mortar shell fell in Teshrin stadium in the district of Baramke in Damascus, yesterday. Four people, including a sports journalist, were wounded when the shell fell during a football match.
BRUSSELS/damascus: The European Union split over whether to supply arms to Syrian rebels at talks yesterday where UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called for a political rather than a military settlement to the two-year conflict. “The military solution is out of the question,” Brahimi said after meeting the EU’s 27 foreign ministers.
“I came to ask them to use whatever means they have to reach a peaceful solution for this case. I believe there is no way except the peaceful solution,” he told reporters.
As the crisis which has sent a million Syrians fleeing the country and left some 70,000 people dead goes into its third year, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton too said “the best way to stop the violence is to find a political way forward.”
But ministers were sharply divided, with Britain, France and Italy tipping in favour of eventual military aid for the opposition while Germany and others see that as too risky.
“I don’t think the bloodshed in Syria will decrease should we engage in an arms race,” said Germany’s Guido Westerwelle. Sweden’s Carl Bildt warned that a military solution carried the risk of “the devastation of the region.”
France disagreed, with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius saying the bloc may need to rethink its Syria arms embargo to help insurgents fighting the Damascus regime. “It seems obvious to me that the question of lifting the arms embargo will be increasingly on the table due to the evident imbalance between Bashar Al Assad, who is being supplied with powerful weaponry from Iran and Russia, and the National Coalition, which does not have such weapons,” Fabius said.
The EU late last month amended its arms embargo on Syria to allow member nations to supply “non-lethal” equipment as well as training to the opposition Syrian National Coalition but stopped short of lifting the embargo entirely.
The United States last week said for the first time that it would provide direct but non-lethal aid to rebel fighters battling Assad, and $60m in extra assistance. The EU is the largest humanitarian donor for the Syrian crisis, with more than ¤428m sent to help distressed Syrians inside and outside the country.
Turkish security forces arrested yesterday four Syrians linked to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime over a deadly bomb attack on the volatile border last month, the interior minister said.
“Our security forces arrested four Syrian nationals and one Turkish citizen” over the minibus bombing which killed 14 people, Muammer Guler said in televised remarks. “We proved their links with the Syrian intelligence and army.”
The minibus exploded in the buffer zone between Turkey’s Cilvegozu border crossing and Syria’s Bab Al Hawa post on February 11, the latest spillover of violence from Syria’s civil war.
The Cilvegozu crossing is one of seven functioning border posts along Turkey’s 910km frontier with Syria.
It is a major gateway into Syria, with hundreds of trucks lining up every day to take humanitarian aid into the war-torn nation.
Turkey, a one-time Syria ally now vehemently opposed to Assad’s regime, has taken in some 190,000 refugees registered in several camps along the border and 100,000 more across the country.
Meanwhile, President Michel Suleiman called yesterday for international action to help Lebanon cope with a deluge of refugees from the war in neighbouring Syria which he said threatened to set his volatile country ablaze.
In an interview with Reuters at the presidential palace overlooking Beirut — and just 25 miles from the Syrian-Lebanese border — Suleiman compared Syria’s civil war to a conflagration breaking out next door.
“When there is a fire next to your house, you have to assume that it will spread and you have to try to stop it reaching you,” Suleiman, a former army chief elected president as part of a peace deal to end sectarian clashes in Beirut in 2008.