Syrian rebels won’t be getting arms from the European Union – at least for now.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels rejected a bid to alter an arms embargo on Syria that would have allowed them to send arms to rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Assad. Here’s more from the meeting:
“The Council agreed to renew the restrictive measures against Syria for a further three months, amending them so as to provide greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians. The Council will actively continue the work underway to assess and review, if necessary, the sanctions regime against Syria in order to support and help the opposition.”
The “non-lethal support” and “technical assistance” may have been a nod to Britain, which wanted the rebels exempt from the arms embargo currently in place.
“Most states were opposed to any amendment of the embargo and today we have amended it in a very important way, in a couple of very important ways,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.
His comments were reported by The Associated Press.
Separately, President Obama has already rejected the idea of arming the rebels despite a push to do just that by top officials, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The U.S. gives the Syrian opposition more than $300 million in humanitarian aid, The New York Times reports.
In a story Monday, The Times reported that the Obama administration could be running out options as Assad clings to power in Syria. Here’s more from the story:
“With conditions continuing to deteriorate, officials could reopen the debate over providing weapons to select members of the resistance in an effort to break the impasse in Syria. The question is whether a wary Mr. Obama, surrounded by a new national security team, would come to a different conclusion.”
“This is not a closed decision,” a senior administration official told the newspaper. “As the situation evolves, as our confidence increases, we might revisit it.”
The deliberations over arming the Syrian opposition come the same day a U.N. commission said both the rebels as well as the Assad regime had committed atrocities and should be brought to justice.
But it added: “”The violations and abuses committed by anti-Government armed groups did not, however, reach the intensity and scale of those committed by Government forces and affiliated militia.”
The commission said 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011.