News / Middle East

    EU Delays Decision to Arm Syrian Rebels

    A fighter from the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra reacts to his picture being taken as their base is shelled in Raqqa province, eastern Syria, Mar.14, 2013.
    A fighter from the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra reacts to his picture being taken as their base is shelled in Raqqa province, eastern Syria, Mar.14, 2013.
    Lisa Bryant
    European Union governments delayed making a decision Friday on a push by Britain and France to arm Syrian rebels against government troops, as the civil war in Syria marked its second anniversary. Syria was not on the agenda of the European summit that ended Friday in Brussels. But Europe's two military heavyweights, Britain and France, made sure it would be discussed.

    Both countries say they will act together in trying to get the 27-member European Union to lift an embargo against shipping weapons to Syria.

    • Smoke rises from buildings damaged by missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Raqqa province, eastern Syria, March 15, 2013.
    • Demonstrators shout during a protest in Raqqa, Syria, marking two years since the start of the uprising in the country, March 15, 2013.
    • Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the government of Bashar al-Assad in Istanbul March 15, 2013.
    • Residents walk past rubbish piled up along a street in Deir al-Zor, Syria, March 13, 2013.
    • A member of the Free Syrian Army stands near a damaged building in Raqqa province, eastern Syria, March 13, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters prepare mortar shells prior to an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Houla near Homs, March 13, 2013. (Shaam News Network)
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (center) meets with Haitham Manna, the president of the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, front left, and secretary Raja al-Nasser, front right, in Moscow, March 11, 2013.
    • Syrians stand next to dead bodies that have been pulled from the river near Aleppo, March 10, 2012.
    • Buildings damaged by shelling in the Al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Homs, March 10, 2013.
    • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres (C) walks with a Syrian refugee boy at a camp in Nizip, Turkey, March 10, 2013.
    • Residents walk along a street in Deir al-Zor, March 9, 2013.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron said arming the Syrian rebels did not mean giving up on a political solution to the Syrian conflict that has killed roughly 70,000 people and displaced more than a million.

    "But of course people want a political solution - of course I want a political situation. But this is not an either-or situation," Cameron said. "I think in fact we're more likely to see political progress if actually people can see that the Syrian opposition which we have now recognized, that we are working with, is a credible and strengthening and growing force."

    Loading...

    Demonstrations were held Friday in protest centers across Syria to mark the second anniversary of the conflict which has claimed the lives of 70,000 people. Anti-government protesters first took to the streets in Syria to demand democratic change on March 15, 2011, during the early days of the region-wide upheaval known as the Arab Spring.
     
    Violence continued in several parts of the country Friday. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights says government troops launched attacks in south Damascus, while rebels attacked military posts in the town of Kahn Touman in Aleppo province, killing several soldiers.
     
    Also Friday, at least eight Syrians were killed and more than 20 others injured when a bus they were traveling in from Syria overturned in the Kahhaleh region in Lebanon. It was not immediately clear why the bus overturned.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
    Some are concerned the weapons may end up in the wrong hands - like those of Islamist extremists - but Mr. Cameron said this is happening already. All the more important, he said, to work with the opposition so assistance goes to the right people.  

    EU members have strong reservations

    Other EU members, notably economic heavyweight Germany, still have strong reservations about arming Syrian rebels.

    But EU president Herman Van Rompuy downplayed the disagreements at a news conference, saying it was normal for member states to disagree.

    "I remember Libya - we also started with nuances and sometimes more than nuances in how to act in Libya, and in the end we had a common position," he said. "It is part of the democratic process."

    French President Francois Hollande also put a positive spin on the differences.

    Hollande said many EU members are convinced the embargo should be lifted. He said there were plenty of legitimate questions about the risks of arming Syrian rebels.

    A current EU embargo against sending weapons to Syria expires at the end of May. Britain and France have pushed for the matter to be taken up speedily - which is why European foreign ministers will discuss lifting the embargo when they meet next week in Ireland.

    You May Like

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: PermReader
    March 16, 2013 3:05 PM
    We are tired of permanent lies! All anti-government rebels where vagely called "democratic forces" of the Arab world. Seizing power these forces after the blood-bath appeare Muslim-Brothers,Salafies or Al-Kaida.Let them have more arms!

    by: Igor from: Russia
    March 16, 2013 1:33 AM
    If Britain and France think they can arm those terrorists in Syria the Russia, China, Iran, North Korea will surely arm Syrian people with advanced weapons to counter terrorist attacks.

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    March 15, 2013 5:17 PM
    The EU has very valid concerns wrt the arming of disparate groups, it is up to the Syrian majority representatives to form themselves into a cohesive gvmt that displays clear C4 over all the forces fighting to defend the people under attack by Assad and his chronies. 75,000 mainly massacred, by large weapons, civilians is a clear testament to the fact that Assad has arms, while the reps of the majority do not. Trying to force EU members to a policy of arming the defenders, is not the right approach either. There are those countries that for traditional reasons try not to involve themselves in conflicts; and then there are segments that for economic opportunity reasons may feel their future trade advantage, with Iran, will disappear if they side with the majority against the dictatorship; after all not all nations are here to protect the weak. It would be better if the EU agreed to let individual countries follow their moral and humanitarian inclinations on the issue of arming or not arming the struggling and dying civilian majority in Syria.

    by: Michael from: USA
    March 15, 2013 9:14 AM
    France and Britain can arm the Syrian rebels, yet it is a self-conscious decision for a rebel to take up arms and for his own reasons, otherwise France and Britain's act would have authoritarian overtones

    by: kanaikaalirumporai
    March 15, 2013 8:55 AM
    Whenever the EU and its allies, the US, Canada and Australia, prefer to Call someone rebels, they do so and assist them With weaponary and politically to suit the geopolitical needs. If the same gorup, in case at a later stage, turn out to be irrelevent due to some either changes in circunstances or thy conglomerate strikes a deal With the perpetrators of CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY they simly switch side and hunt for the peoples' warriwers. The Project does not stop there, the conglomerate provide all sores of assistence in cleanig the BLOOD STAINED HANDS OF THE WAR CRIMINALS. It' only a matter of time before the EVIL ASSAd turns into be the SAVIOR STABILTY AND PEACE in the regin, if he's unable to be defeatd, Venues like the UNHRC will be used to endorse the policies.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.