France suggests arming Syrian rebels



ELAINE GANLEY | AP

Published — Thursday 15 November 2012

Last update 16 November 2012 4:27 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

PARIS: France’s foreign minister raised the prospect Thursday of sending “defensive weapons” to Syrian rebels, saying his country will ask the European Union to consider lifting its arms embargo on the Middle East nation.
The civil war in Syria, which began as an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime, has killed more than 36,000 Syrians since March 2011, according to anti-Assad activists. The fighting and floods of refugees seeking safety have also spilled over into several of Syria’s neighbors, including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the EU’s arms embargo is preventing Syrian rebels from fully defending themselves.
“We must not militarize the conflict ... but it’s obviously unacceptable that there are liberated zones and they’re bombed” by Assad’s regime, Fabius said in an interview with RTL radio. “We have to find a good balance.”
“The question of defensive arms will be raised,” he said, without providing details about such arms. “This cannot be done without coordination between Europeans.”
The topic of Syria is sure to be on the agenda at the EU foreign ministers meeting Monday in Brussels.
Among Western nations, France has been at the forefront of the struggle, and on Tuesday quickly recognized a new opposition coalition formed Sunday as the Syrian people’s sole representative. It was the first Western nation to do so.
France has already been funneling aid, some through cloak and dagger means, to Syrian rebels, but expects to turn that over to the new coalition.
Russia, meanwhile, still opposes assistance to the Syrian opposition.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, speaking at a briefing Thursday, said foreign help to those fighting Assad’s government would represent a “gross violation” of basic principles of international law. He cited a 1970 UN document saying that no country should help or finance military action aimed at the violent overthrow of a foreign government.
The Russian comments came before those from Fabius, who did not mention that Russia has consistently vetoed Security Council resolutions trying to step up the pressure against the Assad regime.
In Turkey, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recognized the broad-based Syrian National Coalition on Thursday, according to the Anadolu news agency.
The president of the new opposition coalition, the 52-year-old preacher-turned activist Mouaz Al-Khatib, is to visit Paris and meet with President Francois Hollande on Saturday.
A French diplomatic official said Thursday that France sees quick recognition as a primary way to assure success for the opposition.
“There won’t be many other occasions like this,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and asked not to be named. “We have a collective responsibility, to the Syrians and ourselves, to make this live.”
President Barack Obama is holding back full recognition, saying Wednesday that the US isn’t considering sending weapons to the opposition because of concerns the arms might end up in the hands of extremists.
Israeli tanks struck a Syrian artillery launcher Monday after a stray mortar shell flew into Israel-held territory, the first direct clash between the neighbors since the Syrian uprising began. The confrontation fueled new fears that the Syrian civil war could drag Israel into the violence, with grave consequences for the region.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Thirty-three of the 34 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus cases in the Kingdom were reported from Riyadh and one from Najran, the weekly report released here by the Ministry of Health said on Monday. The report, which covered...
• Which particular aspect of Saudi Arabia you like the most? Its warm hearted people and the unique Saudi humor.• Can you tell us your favorite and oft-repeated Arabic word? Hala wallah!• Which book is now on your bedside? “Socialdemokratiske Taenke...
RIYADH: The father of the Saudis who were allegedly assaulted by Turkish authorities at Istanbul airport intends to take legal action against the officials.Abdullah Al-Monaiser said the brutal encounter resulted in a broken nose and various bruises o...
DAMMAM: The Kingdom needs to lay stress on buildings that are earthquake resistant, especially in regions like Dammam and Alkhobar which are more vulnerable, a study has said.The country is close to areas that have significant seismic activity, like...
JEDDAH: The Saudi Electricity Company, National Water Company and the country’s telecommunication firms are to blame for the deterioration of the city’s roads because of poor workmanship.This is the conclusion of a study conducted by a specialized fo...
JEDDAH: The Insan Charity Committee for Orphans’ Care distributed more than 21,000 schoolbags worth SR2,147,600 among the students of primary and middle schools in all its 16 branches, according to a website.The amount allocated for schoolbags was di...

Stay Connected

Facebook