EU foreign ministers to decide on whether to lift Syria sanctions

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EU foreign ministers to decide on whether to lift Syria sanctions
Published 27-05-2013, 08:26
At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, European Union foreign affairs ministers will resolve differences over a package of sanctions on Syria, including an arms embargo which expires June 1.

Whether or not to arm Syrian rebels battling President Bashar Assad's forces has been a key point of debate in the international community - some nations fear the weapons will fall into the hands of anti-Western Islamic militants.

The main EU military powers, UK and France, have been lobbying for months for an easing of the embargo to help channel weapons to rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. Spain favors a partial lifting of sanctions as well, its foreign minister said Tuesday.

But Austria, Sweden and several others members, as well as EU officials, will defend maintaining the sanctions across the board. They fear that channelling more arms to the opposition will only worsen violence that has already cost at least 80,000 lives.

There is also mounting concern that weapons could make their way into the arsenals of militant groups Europe does not want to empower.

Opponents say taking a decision now to allow arms to be sent to the rebels could undermine next month's planned international peace conference, sponsored by the United States and Russia, and they are using this as an argument to extend the full embargo.

EU diplomats say four or five member states want the EU arms embargo renewed unaltered, though some of these would accept an extension of just a month or two to assess how the peace talks turn out, reports Reuters. Is is said compromise may involve proposed arms shipments being examined case by case or limitations on the type of weaponry made available.

One senior EU official doubted there would any major change in the arms embargo directly after Monday's ministerial meeting. As quoted by Reuters he said: "A prolongation of the current situation for a short period of time would seem the most likely outcome."

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Hague commented that a partial life on the arms embargo would not affect the peace process in a negative way, since it would help make the opposition stronger in terms of negotiation with President Assad.

In the past week, he told British MPs that weapons would be given only "under carefully controlled circumstances" and with clear commitments from the opposition.


French foreign Minister Laurent Fabius along with Hague will try to convince the other EU states to alter the embargo to allow arms to be handed off to the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, or have help sent to them.

Voice of Russia

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