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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid