Thursday

19th Oct 2017

EU countries free to ship arms to Syria

EU countries are legally free to ship arms to Syria from 1 June in an ugly compromise after 14 hours of talks in Brussels.

The deal is to see all other sanctions - including visa bans, asset freezes and a prohibition on buying oil from regime-linked firms - extended for one year.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It comes with a political declaration that nobody will deliver weapons "at this stage."

It also comes with a promise to send arms "for the protection of civilians" only.

But it does not hide the fact that each member state will now create its own Syria arms rules because they could not agree a joint approach.

The talks saw a clash between British foreign minister William Hague and Austria's Michael Spindelegger.

France supported the UK, but took a back seat when its minister left early for another meeting in Paris.

Hague told press afterward: "We have brought an end to the EU arms embargo on the opposition."

He said: "This decision gives us the flexibility in future to respond to a worsening situation or the refusal of the [Syrian] regime to negotiate."

When asked how to ensure Islamic extremists do not get weapons, he added: "We would only take the step of sending arms in concert with other nations, in carefully controlled circumstances and in compliance with international law."

Spindelegger branded the result a failure.

He described Britain's negotiating tactics as "deplorable" and "annoying."

He said most ministers had wanted to keep the arms ban for now but to review it in August.

He also said the EU is a "peace organisation," but if countries start to take sides in civil wars it will "fundamentally" alter the nature of EU foreign policy.

For her part, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton tried to paper over the crack in the European facade.

She said: "There is a strong spirit of trying to find a European solution … Each individual [country] is trying to find a way to best support the Syrian people."

Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans gave a more frank assessment.

He noted: "We were risking not having any sanctions by the end of the day. So, I am counting my blessings. At least 90 percent of the sanctions are still there."

Outside the EU, Turkey and the US have voiced support for arming the rebels while Russia opposes the move.

"This does direct damage to the propects for convening the international conference," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Itar-Tass news agency on Tuesday, referring to plans to hold peace talks in Geneva next month.

Meanwhile, analysts predict complications if France and the UK go ahead.

A contact from a French private intelligence firm, who asked to remain anonymous, told EUobserver if they ship fancy surface-to-air or anti-tank missiles they will have to send soldiers to teach rebels how to use them.

Robert Baer, a former CIA officer in the Middle East who now writes on security issues for Time magazine, said anyone who gets involved in Syria might get bogged down for years.

"When has it ever been wise to intervene in a civil war? This is the mother of all civil wars," he noted.

"The best thing is to let them bleed it out. That's what happened in Lebanon. The Lebanese got tired of killing each other with no reward for their pain. That's where the Syria conflict is heading," he added, referring to the 1975-1990 Lebanon war.

Opinion

What is the Free Syrian Army? An inside look

As EU foreign ministers meet in Dublin to discuss arming the Free Syrian Army, Koert Debeuf, an EU parliament official, tells EUobserver who the rebels really are.

EU arms to Syria: what, how and if

Britain and France are since Saturday free to ship arms to Syrian rebels. But many analysts think the idea is "a bluff."

News in Brief

  1. EU summit moved to previous building after fumes scare
  2. Catalonia will 'not back down'
  3. New toxic incident in EU building ahead of summit
  4. Murdered Malta journalist's family invited to Parliament
  5. EU food safety chief denies keeping studies 'secret'
  6. EU states pledge 24,000 resettlement places so far
  7. US ready for arms sale to update Greece's F-16 fleet
  8. Austria's Green leaders step down following election failure

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  2. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  6. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  7. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  8. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  9. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  10. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  12. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year

Latest News

  1. EU okays Privacy Shield's first year
  2. EU seeks to decrypt messages in new anti-terror plan
  3. EU agencies defend research ahead of glyphosate vote
  4. Spain points at elections as exit to Catalan crisis
  5. How EU can ensure Daphne Caruana Galizia's legacy survives
  6. Juncker dinner to warm up relations with eastern EU
  7. Court hearing in MEPs 'private' expenses battle
  8. The unbearable lightness of leadership