28 May 2013, 19:17

EU decision not to extend embargo on arms supplies to Syrian opposition is illegitimate - Lavrov

Сергей Лавров Пан Ги Мун встреча сочи
Sergei Lavrov
Sergei Lavrov

The European Union's decision not to extend an embargo on arms supplies to the Syrian opposition is illegitimate, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. The Voice of Russia correspondent Olga Denisova reports.

Update 20.20

"This decision is quite controversial in itself, because the international law bans arms supplies to non-governmental entities," Lavrov told journalists in Paris on Tuesday.

"This decision is illegitimate in principle," he said.

A number of steps being taken with the involvement of Russia's Western partners are leading to the disruption of the idea of an international conference on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"We have pointed out that a number of actions that are being taken - and they are not being taken without the involvement and support of our Western partners, including the U.S. and France - are advancing, willingly or unwillingly, the disruption of the idea to convene a conference," Lavrov told journalists in Paris on Tuesday in commenting on outcomes of his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described as "foul" attempts to blame Russia for conniving at Iran's policy in the nuclear sphere. "It is a foul gimmick, generally speaking.

We would be the last to accept violations of the nonproliferation regime by the new nuclear states," Lavrov told reporters in Paris on Tuesday.

Iran is one of the key countries that need to take part in an international conference on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

"We insist on Iran's involvement in Syria's affairs and the conference on Syria, primarily because all countries with influence on these or those Syrian parties must be represented there without exception. Iran is undeniably one of the crucial countries from this circle," Lavrov told journalists in Paris on Tuesday.

In commenting on his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Lavrov said his counterparts agreed that clarity is needed on the composition of participants in the international conference on Syria.

"Importantly, this concerns not only the Syrians who will be representing various strata of Syrian society. This also concerns external players, and the problem of Iran is a key one for us," he said.

What is the reason behind the most recent propaganda campaign against the Syrian government?

Gen. Hisham Jaber, a military analyst from Lebanon shares his taken on the issue: “I understand the allegations concerning chemical weapons have reared their head ahead of the upcoming meeting between Obama and Putin, as both parties are trying to pile more pressure on each other. Moreover, the Syrian army has been waging a successful offensive against rebel forces. All of this has upset the US’s calculations. If you look at official US reports you might think the Syrians did use chemical weapons, although there’s absolutely no evidence of that. On the other hand, the White House is now demanding that intelligence be more careful about probing this alleged incident to avoid another Iraq.”

Army reserve Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, President of the Russia-based Academy on Geopolitical Affairs, has a different take on the matter. He believes the US is hardly more wary of repeating the Iraqi scenario.

“The US is doing everything to help militants topple the Syrian regime and plunge the country into chaos. The forces behind this crisis are set to dismantle the Syrian state, it’s their main goal, and they are using all the tested tools to that end. The chemical weapons claim proved instrumental in ousting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. Now Iraq is essentially tittering on the brink of collapse, which means chemical weapons can be used successfully to repeat the Iraqi scenario.”

But is the US ready to go that far? Leonid Ivashov thinks that a US-led NATO invasion in Syria can’t be ruled out yet. “Washington is intent to destroy the Syrian regime, it devised a big operation, gave away money and won’t consider giving it all up at this point.”

UK and France free to arm Syrian rebels after EU embargo ends

Britain and France have won the freedom to supply weapons to Syrian rebel groups after EU governments failed to renew an arms embargo which expires June 1.

The two nations lobbying for months for an easing of the embargo prevailed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. The negotiating session dragged on for more than 13 hours and resulted in EU letting a ban on arming the Syrian opposition to expire.

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said the decision sent “a very strong message” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about the need to seek a political solution to the conflict.

Both London, the prime mover behind the EU decision, and Paris have made a commitment not to deliver arms to the Syrian opposition "at this stage". The commitment expires on August 1.

The ministers agreed that any countries that opted to send arms to Syria would have to provide assurances about the types of weapons supplied and the recipients.

It was also decided that other economic sanctions on Syria will be prolonged by 12 months. They include asset freezes and travel bans on Bashar al-Assad and senior Syrian officials, as well as curbs on trade, infrastructure projects and the transport sector.

London and Paris have argued for months that Europe must send a strong signal of support for Syrian rebels fighting Mr. Assad by giving the green light for EU arms deliveries.

But they ran into strong opposition from other EU member states including Austria, the Czech Republic and Sweden, which argued that sending more weapons to the region would make the violence even worse and could see heavy weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said he regretted it had not been possible to find a compromise with Britain and France.

“The people in Syria being killed in this conflict wouldn’t benefit if we ship weapons. It would result in an arms race,” said Michael Spindelegger.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, sought to repair any damage to the bloc's image, saying Monday's decision did not mean the EU has lost the capacity to "have a common policy."

"What it does mean is there is a recognition that in trying to establish how best to support the people of Syria, countries will want to make some decisions (on their own)," she said.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, The Guardian, Businessweek

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