Monday

23rd Sep 2019

France and Germany disagree on arming Syria rebels

France has said the EU should reconsider its ban on giving arms to Syrian rebels, despite German opposition to the move.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius told press after meeting his colleagues in Brussels on Monday (11 March) that there is an "imbalance" in the conflict because the Syrian regime is "being supported by heavy weapons coming from Iran and Russia, but the [rebel] National Coalition does not have the same weapons at its disposal."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

He added: "This question [on lifting the EU arms embargo] … will have to be asked again very quickly because we cannot tolerate this imbalance, which is resulting in the massacre of the entire population."

The EU just two weeks ago extended the arms ban for another three months, but allowed the provision of "non-lethal equipment and technical assistance for the protection of civilians."

Britain's William Hague on Monday noted that he is "making full use of the amendment" by giving rebels "armoured, four-wheel-drive vehicles and body armour" as well as "training, advice and assistance."

He said that France, Germany and Italy are all "thinking along the same lines" on how to help the opposition.

But Germany the same day struck a different note.

Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said EU countries should send in "goods for infrastructure, medical assistance, electricity, water."

But he added: "I don't think the bloodshed in Syria will decrease should we engage in an arms race."

For his part, the man tasked by the UN and the Arab League to try to mediate in the conflict, Lakhdar Brahimi, told the meeting of EU foreign policy chiefs that Europe should urge Russia to play a more constructive role.

He warned that unless there is "a peaceful, consensual, political solution, [then] the situation will become similar to or even worse than, Somalia."

But he gave no hope of any breakthrough in rebel-regime talks.

"He did not give me an iota of greater optimism," Poland's Radek Sikorski said after listening to the envoy.

"I'm very, very pessimistic. I'm afraid there will be a very long civil war," Belgium's Didier Reynders noted.

The EU ministers the same day further stigmatised the Syrian regime's principal ally, Iran.

They blacklisted seven Iranian jurists and prison chiefs as well as a new Cyber Police Unit in the Revolutionary Guards.

They accused one of the designated men, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, Iran's chief Internet censor, of having "actively contributed to the death in detention of the blogger Sattar Beheshti in November 2012."

They accused the others of torture and hangings of political prisoners.

They also blacklisted the chief of Iran's English-language propaganda channel, Press TV, Mohammad Sarafaz, and his top editor, Hamid Reza Emadi, for broadcasting prisoners' "forced confessions."

Feature

Back from hell, back from Syria

The West should give the Free Syrian Army food and anti-aircraft defences, one EU parliament official says after visiting the war torn country.

News in Brief

  1. Doubt cast on new Maltese inquiry into slain reporter
  2. March by Slovak Catholics seeks abortion ban
  3. 600,000 stranded on holiday as Thomas Cook collapses
  4. Egypt: hundreds of protesters arrested over weekend
  5. Global car industry fears no-deal Brexit shock
  6. France: de-escalation between US and Iran priority
  7. Spain demands UK 'reciprocity' on resident rights
  8. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  2. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  4. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  8. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  10. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  11. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  12. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us