France, Britain Push EU To Arm Syrian Rebels; Hollande Signals Readiness To Circumvent Embargo

 @AmruthaGayathri
on March 15 2013 6:59 AM
Hollande
France President Francois Hollande holds a news conference during a European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on March 14, 2013 REUTERS

France and Britain will urge European Union nations to lift an embargo on supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition, President Francois Hollande said Thursday, amid internal differences within the opposition’s ranks about efforts to form a breakaway interim government.

The French president justified the move saying the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime was receiving overseas arms supplies, particularly from its ally, Russia. He indicated that if EU could not reach an agreement, France would consider going ahead alone with the plan to supply arms.

"We want the Europeans to lift the arms embargo - not to go towards a total war, we think a political transition must be the solution for Syria – [but] we must accept our responsibilities," Hollande was quoted as saying by Reuters in Brussels, where he arrived Thursday to attend an EU summit.

“[We] cannot allow a people to be massacred as it is being today," said Hollande.

He said France and Britain will persuade their EU partners during summit discussions to lift the embargo for the opposition before the end of May.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius wrote in an op-ed for the French newspaper Liberation calling for lifting the arms embargo in favor of the Syrian opposition coalition.

"If not the slaughter will continue, and there will not be any other possible outcome but to strengthen the most extreme groups and the collapse of Syria with devastating consequences for the country itself and the region,” Fabius wrote, as reported by the CNN.

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron had said the U.K. “might have to do things in our own way," with regard to the issue of arming Syrian opposition.

However, he stressed that the U.K. was undecided on whether to circumvent the EU embargo: "I hope that we do not have to break from a collaborative approach across the European Union," he said.

Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition’s push to form an interim government continues to be marred by internal rifts. Talks to form a government, initially scheduled for last month in Istanbul, has been postponed twice with a possible new date between March 18 and 30, AFP news agency reported.

“We are in desperate need for an interim government, a recognized civilian entity that can restore law and order and secure basic services to liberated areas," Walid Al Bunni, a spokesman for the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "Otherwise we are headed toward a very bad situation."

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