3 July 2013, 17:29

More arms won’t bring more peace to Syria - Lord Ashdown

сирия оружие конфискация

The former Liberal Democrat Leader, Lord Ashdown, says arming the rebels will only make the conflict in Syria worse.
He says Syria is already awash with arms, left over from the Bosnian War. He has called for Europe and America to stop the flow of weapons to the country, which he says are being paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. But the Syrian National Council says the conflict has gone on so long, arming the opposition is the only solution left.

"The region has left-over weapons from the Bosnian war. I know where those weapons are. And now they're finding home elsewhere. No doubt, a lot of criminal and illegal structures in the business of supplying weapons are getting very rich.

If the West wants to do something helpful to the conflict in Syria, what it needs to do is put pressure on those countries -Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in particular, - to stop them providing this flow of funds and arms to the jihadists not just in Syria, but elsewhere across the Middle East. It's a very foolish policy. It is one that will lead to a widening conflict. And I think the West - America and the E.U. - should be persuading them not to do so."

In May Britain and France pushed to have the E.U. arms embargo on Syria lifted, but neither country has yet announced any plans to actually send weapons.

However, the Obama administration recently said the U.S. would send direct military aid to opponents of the Syrian regime.

Lord Ashdown says the rebels are not fit to be armed, because the opposition is dominated by radical Islamist groups.

"The victories are being run by al-Nusra front. We all know what that is. It's al-Qaeda sponsored. The jihadist element - salafist element, particularly, is dominant. And I think that's extremely regrettable."

That claim is refuted by Dr. Saleh Mubarak, member of the Syrian National Council.

"There might be some radical groups in Syria that Syrian opposition is concerned about. But first of all, the number is not as great as some people try to portray. They are not the majority, they are not dominant. And their existence and their growth is actually the fault of the West, because since the revolution started being militarized almost two years ago, we requested arms and they didn't approve this. So that resulted in more radicalization of the military wing of the revolution and I insist the percentage of those fighters from outside is very low - I've heard in the neighborhood of 2%-3% only of the total fighting force of the opposition."

Dr. Mubarak says the Syrian rebels didn't want the revolution to be militarized, but now there's no other option.

He says providing arms to the Free Syrian Army is the right thing to do, because that will strengthen the mainstream fighters and weaken the radical elements among the opposition.

"I have very active Facebook page and thousands of people follow me - I know I can measure the reaction to the Syrian revolution. People who started it were not people who love violence. We hate violence. We hated the fact that the revolution was militarized. We were very-very sad to see that. But we need to get out freedom. There's no retreat in this revolution. It's going to continue until we attain our freedom. "

Though he hasn't yet promised any weapons to the rebels, Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague has warned, the international community must be prepared to do more.

Lord Ashdown, on the other hand, is representative of those who opposed the West getting involved in yet another conflict in the Middle East.

"Which one of us does not bleed for those poor and innocent who are suffering? Which one of us would not like to see something to be done? But the reality of it is - if something you want to do make things not better, but worse - then you shouldn't do it. More arms don’t make more peace. I'm afraid it really doesn't."

He says Syria is being used as a battleground for widening wall between Sunnis and Shias and that's a concern shared by Russia which has long opposed foreign intervention in Syria.

"If you look at what's happening in Dagestan and other Muslim republics of the Russian Federation - the same radicalization is going on there and, of course, they're very concerned about this. And, of course, they do not want to support the organizations that are encouraging that radicalization. I don't agree with the R.F. very often, but in this sense - I do."

But Dr. Saleh Mubarak says at least 100 people are being killed in Syria every day and the world shouldn't just sit by allowing it to continue.

He says arming the rebels is a last resort that's now being reached.

"My analogy is like somebody has a cancer. You can't tell the doctor, "Oh, don't amputate!" The bottom line is how to save the life of the patient. You do whatever it takes and you don't do it with pleasure, you do it with pain. But that's what you have to do."

Diplomatic efforts to solve the Syrian crisis continued on Tuesday, when the Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov met with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry.

Mr. Kerry said the two countries are still committed to holding an international peace conference on Syria in Geneva later this year.

But it probably won't happen until September.

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