Paris, London to arm Syria rebels even without EU support
PARIS/BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
AFP PhotoFrance and Britain are prepared to arm Syrian rebels even without unanimous EU support, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday.
Paris and London will call for moving up the date of the next European Union meeting on the Syria arms embargo, and will decide to arm the rebels if the 27-member EU does not give unanimous agreement, he said.
France and Britain ask "the Europeans now to lift the embargo so that the resistance fighters have the possibility of defending themselves," he told France Info radio.
If unanimous EU support for lifting the measure is lacking, the French and British governments will decide to deliver weapons, Fabius said.
France "is a sovereign nation," he added.
The next EU meeting to study the embargo is planned for the end of May, but Fabius said Paris and London want to have the meeting earlier.
"We must move quickly," and "and we along with the British will ask for the meeting to be moved up," he said, not ruling out a gathering before the end of March. Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that Britain would consider ignoring an EU arms ban and supplying weapons to Syrian rebels if it would help topple President Bashar al-Assad.
The EU last month amended its embargo to allow member nations to supply "non-lethal" equipment and training to the opposition but stopped short of lifting the embargo entirely.
Syria says arming rebels 'violates' international law
Arming Syria's rebels would be a "flagrant violation" of international law, state news agency SANA said, following French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius's statements.
"In a flagrant violation of the principles of international law, Fabius has announced Paris and London's intention to provide weapons to terrorist groups in Syria," said SANA.
Syria opposition hails French, UK move to arm rebels
Syria's main opposition National Coalition welcomed an announcement by France on Thursday that it and Britain are ready to arm rebels fighting to oust the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"We consider it a step in the right direction... Assad will not accept a political solution (to the conflict) until he realises he is faced with an (armed) force that will defeat him," said Coalition spokesman Walid al-Bunni.
"As long as the Europeans and the Americans do not arm the rebels, they are telling Assad to keep fighting.
"So long as Iran and Russia continue to support him (Assad), he will remain convinced that he will win" the war, the spokesman told AFP.