EU Amends Syria Sanctions to Boost Protection of Civilians

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

The European Union on Monday renewed sanctions against Syria while amending them to enable nations to provide more "non-lethal" and technical support to help protect civilians.

A statement agreed by EU foreign ministers said the bloc's sanctions were renewed for three more months until end-May, while "amending them so as to provide greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians."

The ministers' talks on Syria largely focused on a request by Britain, backed by Italy and a handful of EU allies, to lift an EU arms embargo barring the supply of weapons to the rebel coalition battling President Bashar Assad.

Though the arms embargo was maintained, the agreement to boost "non-lethal" support and "technical assistance" went some way to meeting Britain's calls for more support for the opposition Syrian National Coalition.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague had called for changes to the existing arms ban "so that we can provide a broader range of support to the National Coalition."

"We give them strong political and diplomatic support. We also give them assistance in terms of equipment at the moment to help them try to save people's lives," he added. "I think there is a broader range of equipment that we could give to them."

The EU's wide-ranging sanctions against Syria, including the arms ban but also targeting scores of Assad cronies and regime-friendly firms, as well as oil, trade and finance, expire at the end of the month and a deal to renew the package required unanimity.

"Delivering arms might bring about a new military balance on the ground," said an internal paper on the matter drafted for the member states by Ashton's service.

"But it could also fuel further militarization of the conflict, increase risks of dissemination among extremist groups and of arms proliferation in a post-Assad Syria," said the paper, which was obtained by Agence France Presse.

Options that were up for discussion on the table were restricting the embargo to the Syrian government, exempting members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition from the arms ban, or amending the embargo to allow some weapons to be delivered with a view to increasing the protection of civilian populations.

Luxembourg's minister Jean Asselborn, a strong voice on the European diplomatic scene, warned on arrival to the meeting that caution was key.

"There is no lack of weapons in Syria, rather the contrary. There are a lot of things lacking in Syria, but not arms," he said. "More arms will mean more deaths."

EU diplomats are concerned too over the timing of a lift of the arms embargo.

"There is a real question here," said a senior EU diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity. "But is this the right moment given the current efforts to push a political settlement?"

U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was supposed to attend Monday's talks with the EU ministers but had to pull out as efforts mount to make good an offer from opposition leader Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib to negotiate with some regime figures.

"In today's political context, would this be an appropriate measure?" added the diplomat.

Just over a week ago, French President Francois Hollande ruled out lifting the arms embargo for the time being, saying this could only happen "if we're sure there are no further possibilities of political dialogue."

And in Mali, France is facing a reality check "with its troops fighting rebels armed with western weapons from Libya," said an EU official.

U.S. President Barack Obama last year refused to arm Syria's rebels on the same grounds.

Comments 11
Default-user-icon MUSTAPHA O. GHALAYINI (Guest) 18 February 2013, 13:50

its a slow death, it fits the west...vietnam for iran and its kronies...syria needs a destruction of at least 100 billion doll..but radicalation is growing,that is the short insight of the west.

Missing bigjohn 18 February 2013, 20:27

I believe that FSA, Al-Qaeda, AND the Syrian regime who are not fighting to liberate the Golan Heights in Syria SHOULD NOT have arms. What a bunch of losers they are. The Syrian people deserve better.

Thumb andre.jabbour 18 February 2013, 15:20

Help toppling the butcher and you'll be royally rewarded with contracts that Russians currently have!

Thumb geha 18 February 2013, 16:02

EU, there is no need for your weapons: the FSA is capturing enough weapons as it is from the Syrian regime. they are fighting this regime with its weapons.
as for the racist comments above from m8, the day is coming soon enough wwhere your tyranny over Lebanon will end too.

Thumb geha 18 February 2013, 18:23

thank you FT. and what are you?

Missing sanctify 18 February 2013, 18:13

The EU and the US know well that the FSA and other militant groups will win in the end but they want this to happen at the expense of both sides, meaning that they want a victorious but totally warn out and exhausted FSA and Co.
This would be a favorable scenario for Israel which would never want to see Salafist like military groups in control of Syria and on their borders, just like HA on their border with Lebanon. Both HA and Salafists are the same for them. Salafists may be a bigger concern to them as they are still not as organized as HA.

Missing bigjohn 18 February 2013, 20:13

It is nice that they are "protecting" civilians from the regime forces. How about protecting civilians from Rebel forces? Of course. if the rebels were fighting a Western Arab puppet leader, they would be called "terrorists".

Missing helicopter 19 February 2013, 03:23

In response to your previous post bigjohn, it seems the alawites are the onnes that perfected the art of fighting EVERYONE except Israel. They fought the Lebanese (all of those against them occupying Lebanon), the Palestinians, the Iraqis and now their own people. Last time they fought Israel was in 1973.

Missing bigjohn 18 February 2013, 20:19

Al-Kafi As far as I am concerned...I am not sure who is better Al-qaeda, the Baath Regime, or the other Arab leaders who take orders from Zionist America. The anti Shiite sectarian Sunnis SEEM to prefer to fight EVERYONE except the Zionists.

Missing bigjohn 18 February 2013, 23:34

Where did I say that I was bothered for sending arms to Syria??? Idiots like you need to read carefully and comprehend before responding.

Missing helicopter 19 February 2013, 03:27

Their looks, their flag, and their chants do not reveal any diversity within their ranks. They fell, smell and taste like pure Islamist extremists. I am for Bashar falling but not for them replacing him.