News / Middle East

Europe Mulls Increased Support For Syrian Opposition

British Foreign Minister William Hague speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia, May 28, 2012.
British Foreign Minister William Hague speaks during a press conference in Moscow, Russia, May 28, 2012.
Selah Hennessy
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Syrian opposition leaders in London Friday and said he was encouraged by their discussions. London's meeting comes after France became the first western nation to accept the opposition coalition as the legitimate government-in-exile. European countries are considering new ways to up their assistance to the Syrian opposition.

After initial talks with leaders of the Syrian opposition Friday morning, Hague said talks were positive.  

"I hope that today will mark a turning point for the Syrian people and that it will begin the major steps towards a political transition in Syria," Hague said. "I'm encouraged by what I've heard and seen from the leaders of the coalition and I hope the discussions in London today will bring relief to the tens of thousands of people suffering today in Syria."

Last week in Doha, the Syrian opposition made headway towards forging a united front against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

A new coalition was formed, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, headed by a former, cleric Maath al-Khatib.

Before the talks began Friday, Hague told the BBC that London would be deciding in the coming days whether to recognize the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

But first, Hague said, he wanted to get a better gauge of their plans, especially with regard to human rights.  

France has already recognized the coalition as the "sole legitimate representative" of the Syrian people.  And on Thursday France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also discussed lifting the European arms embargo on Syria.

Fabius was speaking on France's RTL radio.

He says for the moment there is an embargo so no arms are being sent from the European side. This issue of military aid, he says, can be raised for "defensive arms" but only with the coordination of other European countries.

David Hartwell is a Middle East expert at the security analyst group IHS Jane's.

He says France's call for providing "defensive weapons" has not specified what arms would fall into that category.

"You could argue that the two major weapons the opposition has been asking for, which are anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons, could be included in that," Hartwell said. "So it's a very cagey, very difficult definition to extend and I think that's the problem will have in selling that to its European partners."

European Union foreign ministers meet Monday in Brussels with Syria likely on the agenda.

So far, Britain and France have been at the forefront in Europe, pushing for closer ties with Syria's opposition.

Analyst Hartwell says most other European nations have been more hesitant, not least because of the economic turmoil plaguing a number of them.

He says it's unlikely a move towards lifting the arms embargo will be made.  

"Lifting the arms embargo would be a fairly major move and it would be one that would court an enormous amount of controversy, especially with the Russians and the Chinese, who may feel that if the EU and Western states are going to begin opening weapons to the opposition then they may feel less constrained in doing so to the government," Hartwell said.

A spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry said Thursday that supplying weapons to the opposition would be a "gross violation" of international law. Russian and Chinese vetoes at the United Nations Security Council have so far blocked U.N. from increased punitive actions against the Syrian government.

You May Like

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

Euro falls after European Central Bank announces a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program More

Saudi King’s Death Clears Succession Route

Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef is Saudi Arabia's New Crown Prince-in-waiting More

Cloud Hangs Over US Counterterrorism Efforts in Yemen

Sources say resignations of Yemen's president, government has left US anti-terror operations 'paralyzed,' yet an American military 'footprint' remains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid