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DAMASCUS: London and Paris are seeking to lift an EU embargo to enable them to arm Syrian rebels, the French Foreign Minister said yesterday, angering Damascus but drawing a guarded welcome from the opposition.
Opposition activists called on the two governments to provide heavy weaponry not just small arms to tilt the balance in the two-year uprising against President Bashar Al Assad’s rule.
Assad’s government, like its key foreign ally Russia, said any such arms shipments would be a “flagrant violation” of international law. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Info radio that Britain and France will ask “the Europeans now to lift the embargo so that the resistance fighters have the possibility of defending themselves.”
Fabius said Assad’s government was receiving weapons from Iran and Russia which gave it an edge over the opposition.
He said Paris and London would press for quick new EU talks on the Syria arms embargo, which was extended on February 28 for three months by EU foreign ministers, although such sanctions are always reviewed in case events change.
Fabius said the two governments were ready to go ahead with arms deliveries even without the support of their partners.
At the February talks, ministers agreed to ease the embargo to enable any EU state to provide non-lethal aid or training to the insurgents. Britain quickly pledged armoured vehicles and protective clothing for the opposition.
When the Syria issue came up again at foreign ministers’ talks on Monday, there were wide divisions, with many EU governments warning that supplying arms to the opposition would lead to an increase in violence.
The EU said yesterday it was possible to hold new talks “without further delay.