Saturday

22nd Feb 2020

US defends EU allies on arms-to-Syria

US diplomats have defended Britain and France over their dismantling of the EU arms embargo on Syria.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday (28 May) told press on President Barack Obama's jet: "We welcome the EU action."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Obama's jet: Carney said British and French arms will help peace talks, but Russian weapons will harm them (Photo: White House)

He said Russia's decision to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian regime is a bad move because it "does not bring us closer to the political transition that Syria deserves," however.

State department spokesman Patrick Ventrell went into more detail at a briefing in Washington.

He said the EU decision will "advance" the prospect of peace by giving "the flexibility to specific EU member states to assist the opposition in a way that each sees fit."

He added: "We want [Syrian leader] Assad to have a changed calculation so that he realises that he's got to negotiate."

Ventrell also complained about Russia.

He said: "We condemn all support of arms to the regime. We've seen how the regime uses those arms. When we’re talking about the opposition, that’s a different group, and clearly they are people who are defending themselves in the face of an enormous onslaught."

The US itself has not decided if it will ship weapons to rebels.

But EU foreign ministers on Monday let each member state go its own way on arms deliveries after they failed to reach common ground in 14-hour-long talks.

The deal included a gentleman's agreement not to start arms shipments until 1 August in order not to disrupt peace talks, set to take place in Geneva in June.

But Britain and France on Tuesday said they are not bound by the August date.

British foreign minister William Hague told BBC radio: "I know there has been some discussion of some sort of August deadline. That is not the case."

French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told media in Paris: "Legally speaking, the [arms] embargo expires on 31 May."

He noted it would have been better if the EU had stayed united, but said national positions in Monday's talks were "very far apart," in reference to Austrian and Czech objections.

He added that France has already established logistical routes and control mechanisms for equipment deliveries to the secularist rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, by supplying it with medical aid and communications kit in recent months.

For its part, Russia said the S-300s are designed to deter Western intervention, such as the creation of a Libya-type no-fly zone.

Its deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, accused the EU of "double standards."

He told Russian press: "The European Union ... is pouring more fuel on the fire of this conflict and damaging the prospects for convening a conference for [a] political settlement."

The Russian surface-to-air missiles cannot be used to hit rebel ground positions.

But they could shoot down Israeli planes if they get into the hands of Islamic extremists or the Assad-allied Hezbollah militia in neighbouring Lebanon.

Israel's defence minister Moshe Yaalon said on Tuesday: "The deliveries have not taken place, I can attest to this ... but if by some misfortune they arrive in Syria, we will know what to do.”

His remark comes after Israeli jets earlier this month launched strikes in Syria to stop Assad giving Russian-made arms to Hezbollah.

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."

EU set for new Libya naval mission

Foreign ministers reached a political agreement to create a new EU naval force to replace Operation Sophia. It aims to enforce an UN arms embargo on Libya and operate in area where migrants do not take boats.

News in Brief

  1. Bulgarian PM investigated over 'money laundering'
  2. Greenpeace breaks into French nuclear plant
  3. Germany increases police presence after shootings
  4. NGO: US and EU 'watering-down' tax reform prior to G20
  5. Iran: parliamentary elections, conservatives likely to win
  6. Belgian CEOs raise alarm on political crisis
  7. Germans voice anger on rise of far-right terrorism
  8. EU leaders' budget summit drags on overnight

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  2. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December

Latest News

  1. No breakthrough at EU budget summit
  2. EU leaders struggling to break budget deadlock
  3. German ex-commissioner Oettinger lands Orban job
  4. How big is Germany's far-right problem?
  5. Plastic and carbon proposals to help plug Brexit budget gap
  6. Sassoli repeats EU budget rejection warning
  7. Why Miroslav Lajčák is the wrong choice for EU envoy
  8. Unhappy EU leaders begin budget haggle

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us