EU mulls arming rebels on 2nd anniversary of Syrian unrest
Damascus: Major European nations, including France and the United Kingdom, have called for lifting its arms embargo and start arming rebels as Syrians mark the second anniversary of the bloody conflict on Friday.
According to reports, the top leaders of France and Britain will try to push other EU members to agree to the move at the Brussels summit.
Addressing members of Parliament in Paris, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius said, “With the carnage in Syria mounting out of control, there's only one thing left to do. Lift a European Union embargo and start arming rebels.”
"We must convince our partners, particularly in Europe, that we have no other choice but lift the arms embargo in favor of the (opposition) Syrian Coalition," the French Foreign Minister also wrote in an op-ed for the French newspaper Liberation.
"We must go ahead and allow the Syrian people to defend themselves against this bloodthirsty regime. It's our responsibility to help the Syrian National Coalition, its leaders and the (rebel) Free Syrian Army by all the possible means.
"If not," Fabius warned, "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."
However, France is not the only country which is pushing for arming Syrian rebels. The United Kingdom has also hinted a change of mind on Syria.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has hinted that he wants to arm Syrian rebels who are demanding President Bashar al-Assad's ouster.
This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK could make its own foreign policy on supplying rebels.
"We might have to do things in our own way," he told lawmakers Tuesday.
But Cameron stressed that the UK has not yet decided to circumvent the EU's arms embargo.
"I hope that we do not have to break from a collaborative approach across the European Union," he said.
However, "if we thought it was the right thing to do, we would do it."
In February, the European Union renewed its arms embargo on Syria for three months but amended it to allow greater nonlethal support and technical assistance to help protect civilians.
The embargo is set to expire in May. Member countries could renew it, add amendments or veto it.
Ties with Russia, one of Syria's key allies and which strongly opposes arming rebels, will also be discussed when the EU leaders meet.
Up to 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began. About one million people have fled the country.
The unrest began on 15 March 2011 with nationwide protests following arrests in the southern city of Daraa.