Russia warns against arming rebels

Russia warns against arming rebels

PANIS/MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Russia warns against arming rebels

Rebels check their machine guns in the town of Ras al-Ayn. Russia has said helping Syrian opposition breaches law. REUTERS photo

France raised the prospect of providing Syria’s rebels with defensive weapons yesterday, but Damascus ally Russia said this would violate international law.

In Paris, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius raised the issue of excluding defensive weapons from the current European Union arms embargo on Syria to help rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“For the moment, there is an embargo, so there are no arms being delivered from the European side. The issue... will no doubt be raised for defensive arms,” he told RTL radio.

‘Coalition asked’

“The issue will be raised because the (opposition) coalition has asked us to do so,” he said, adding that “this is something that we can only do in coordination with the Europeans.”

“France’s position for the moment is to say that we must not militarize the conflict, but it is evidently unacceptable that there are liberated zones and that they be bombarded by Bashar’s planes.” On Nov. 13, National Coalition chief Ahmed al-Khatib calle on world powers to arm the rebels with “specialized weapons.” In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said “promises are being made from a number of capitals of massive supplies of modern weapons. “Outside help to the opposition waging an armed battle against a legitimate government is a gross violation of fundamental norms of international law.”

Lukashevich added that the latest developments, including what he said was rebel refusal to talk with al-Assad, were “in direct contravention” of the so-called Geneva peace plan championed by former U.N. negotiator Kofi Annan. U.S. President Barack Obama was also cautious about the arms question. “One of the things we have to be on guard about... is that we’re not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans harm,” he said Nov. 14.