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 Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora