EU divided over approach to Syria conflict

By REUTERS
March 23, 2013 21:11

DUBLIN - The European Union was left divided over how to increase its help to the Syrian opposition on Saturday after talks between foreign ministers failed to bridge differences on whether to exempt the rebels from an EU arms embargo.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, skeptical of a French and British drive to lift the arms ban on the rebels, said it was very difficult to detect any enthusiasm among EU foreign ministers meeting in Dublin "for further arming of a conflict that is already much too armed."

After a two-year civil war that has killed 70,000 people, Paris and London say they want to raise pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad and try to force him to the negotiating table by allowing the supply of arms to the rebels.

EU countries such as Germany, Austria and Sweden oppose the move, fearing it could lead to weapons falling into the hands of Islamist militants, fuel regional conflict and encourage Assad's backers, Iran and Russia, to step up arms supplies to him.


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