EU ministers to tackle Syria arms embargo
BRUSSELS (dpa) – European Union foreign ministers were set Monday for a showdown over the bloc’s arms embargo on Syria, while tighter sanctions on North Korea were expected to get waved through.
The EU weapons ban, which applies to all parties in conflict-torn Syria, is due to expire on March 1 along with other sanctions. The bloc’s 27 member states want to keep the restrictive measures in place, but are at odds over whether the arms embargo should change.
Britain is pushing hard for it to no longer apply to the Syrian opposition, with cautious backing from France and Italy.
London argues that “a clear signal” must be sent to the Syrian regime by giving the opposition a boost, but also insists that such a step would not automatically translate into weapon deliveries, said diplomats in Brussels who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The nearly two-year conflict in Syria has claimed the lives of at least 70,000 people, according to United Nations estimates.
But many EU countries have ruled out arm shipment to rebels, fearing weapon proliferation. Some would prefer to see the embargo go unchanged or be only slightly adjusted, amid worries of fueling the conflict and harming the EU’s credibility.
The EU’s 27 ministers have to reach a unanimous decision. Several diplomats expressed doubts that an agreement would be found Monday.