Paris and London want EU to lift embargo on weapons for Syrian rebels so groups can “defend themselves”.

French President Francois Hollande has called on Europe’s leaders to lift an arms embargo on Syria to help groups fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Arriving on Thursday for a two-day summit with European Union leaders, Hollande said: “We want Europeans to lift the arms embargo.”

“Britain and France agree on this option,” he said.

London and Paris had earlier announced they were seeking to lift the EU embargo to enable them to deliver weapons to Syrian rebels.

The statement angered Damascus but drew a guarded welcome from the opposition.

Opposition activists called on the two governments to provide heavy weaponry, not just small arms, to tilt the balance in the two-year uprising against Assad’s rule.

Assad’s government, like its key foreign ally Russia, said any such arms shipments would be a “flagrant violation” of international law.

Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, told France Info radio that Britain and France will ask “the Europeans now to lift the embargo so that the resistance fighters have the possibility of defending themselves”.

Fabius said Assad’s government was receiving weapons from Iran and Russia which gave it an edge over the opposition.

He said Paris and London would press for quick new EU talks on the Syria arms embargo, which was extended on February 28 for three months by EU foreign ministers, although such sanctions are always reviewed in case events change.

Fabius said the two governments were ready to go ahead with arms deliveries even without the support of their partners.

 

Source: Al Jazeera