19th Mar 2018

EU offers Syria rebels 'non-lethal' equipment

  • Diplomats in Rome again declined to arm the rebels in Syria (Photo: Joel Bombardier)

The European Union on Thursday (28 February) agreed to supply Syria’s opposition, the Syrian National Coalition, with "non-lethal military equipment."

The amended arms embargo will allow for “the provision of non-lethal equipment and technical assistance for the protection of civilians,” said member states in a joint statement.

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The provisional EU list includes armored vehicles.

But none of it can be used to engage an enemy that has tanks, Scud missiles and fighter jets at its disposal.

Over 70,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war as combat continues in urban areas. Hundreds of thousands have fled for safety and refuge across borders in neighbouring countries.

The UN agency for refugees says a total of 940,000 people are either registered or awaiting registration as refugees. More than half are women. The number is expected to pass the symbolic 1 million mark in March, said a UN spokesperson.

The EU has offered some €200 million in humanitarian relief, but Thursday’s announcement is sure to disappoint the rebel command as the pro-regime Syrian army continues to indiscriminately hit city blocks with heavy tanks and air assault strikes.

Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city lies in ruins after months of relentless assaults by the Syrian regime. Snipers, checkpoints, and explosions are a daily reality for those who remain behind.

Last week, a Syrian army Scud missile hit an Aleppo suburb, killing dozens.

The Syrian regime has repeatedly denied the use of the ballistic missile but the US department of state officially condemned the Scud attack.

Syrian National Coalition President Moaz Alkhatib pleaded with US secretary of state John Kerry and the EU in Rome on Thursday to release weapons to help the rebels fight the regime.

Kerry agreed to supply rebel fighters with medical aid, food and gave $385 million in humanitarian funds.

“Many sides ... focus [more] on the length of the rebel fighter's beard than they do on the blood of the children being killed,” said Alkhatib, reports Reuters.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar each pledged last month around $300 million to relieve the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

But the UN said on Thursday the aid money has yet to materialise, reports the Guardian.

The World Health Organisation noted that the funds to help its efforts continue to arrive from Scandinavia, the UN, and the EU.


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