News / Middle East

    Russia Criticizes EU for Dropping Syrian Rebel Arms Ban

    Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov speaks during a news briefing in Moscow, Dec. 15, 2008. (File)
    Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov speaks during a news briefing in Moscow, Dec. 15, 2008. (File)
    VOA News
    Russia has criticized the European Union's decision to amend its arms embargo on Syria, saying the move will hurt efforts to hold a peace conference aimed at ending the country's violence.

    The EU agreed Monday to keep sanctions against the Syrian government, but to allow weapons to be sent to the main opposition Syrian National Coalition.

    Russian news agency Itar-Tass quotes Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying Tuesday the decision directly harms prospects for the peace talks that Russia and the United States proposed for next month.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday after meeting in Paris to discuss the plan that they remain hopeful, despite the challenges they face in pulling together the multi-national effort.

    Lavrov calls the task a "very tall order," but says Russia and the United States will do everything they can to make the initiative successful.

    The EU says it will evaluate the state of those proposed talks and consult with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon before any actual arms shipments take place. That decision will come before August 1st.

    British Foreign Secretary William Hague says the amended embargo puts pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to seek a non-military solution to more than two years of fighting.



    "This is a strong signal to the Assad regime, that it needs to engage on the political process and, as I have always said and as I have said to our parliament last week, we would only take the step of sending arms in company with other nations in carefully controlled circumstances and in compliance with international law. But this decision today gives us the flexibility in the future to respond to a worsening situation or to a refusal of the Assad regime to negotiate."





    Britain and France have been the main advocates of arming the Syrian rebels, while Austria and Sweden have led a small group resisting the move with fears it could worsen Syria's civil war.

    The EU recognizes the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people and has strongly encouraged the group to take part in the peace talks. Mr. Assad's government has already agreed "in principle" to participate.

    Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt expresses optimism about finding a political solution and cautions that now is not the time to send arms to Syria.



    "I think it is very important that we have a very solid support for the political process. Because we now have the first possibility for a very long time, as a matter of fact since the last summer, for a political process and I think it is extremely important not to do anything to rock the boat. To start delivering weapons now would rock the boat. No one is intending to do that."



    The U.S.-Russian plan is to bring together the Syrian government and the opposition to negotiate terms for a transitional government in Syria.

    Russia reiterated Monday its support for including Iran in the peace conference. Both Russia and Iran are Syrian allies.

    The United States has long criticized Iranian support for Mr. Assad, accusing Tehran of exacerbating the Syrian conflict rather than being part of the solution.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Leaderless, Rudderless, Britain Drifts

    Experts predicted chaos would follow, if Britain decided to vote for Brexit, and chaos has

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora