The European Union lifted the arms embargo on Syrian rebels after they were unable to gain agreement on what to do. The EU decision means that member states will be able to send weapons to the outgunned rebels beginning a few days from now.
The decision seeks to keep pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the coming days ahead of peace talks that will be mediated by the United States and Russia.
No EU country has plans to arm the Syrian rebels, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague explained that the decision “sends a very strong message from Europe to the Assad regime.”
The main opposition to the EU arms embargo on Syria’s opposition came from Britain and France. The countries achieved what they wanted to do at the negotiating session in Brussels. But their victory also means division in the EU.
The EU ministers also agreed to reinstate other restrictions regarding Syria, including asset freezes and travel bans on Assad and other senior Syrian officials. There are also sanctions that curb trade, infrastructure projects, and the transport sector.
The decision to end the arms embargo came after months of pressure from London and Paris to do so. The two nations argued for months that Europe needs to send a strong signal of support for the Syrian opposition fighting Assad. The best way to do that, they argued, would be to give the green light on arming the rebels.
But France and Britain saw strong opposition to their plan from Austria, Sweden, and others. They argued that sending more weapons to the already war-torn country would increase violence in the conflict and also spread instability across the Middle East. Hague added of the decision, “While we have no immediate plans to send arms to Syria, it gives us the flexibility to respond in the future if the situation continues to deteriorate.”
[Image via ShutterStock]