Syrian opposition fighter.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ward Al-Keswani)
Britain is prepared to send arms to Syrian rebels should peace talks set for
this month fail to bring about an end to the conflict, the Financial Times
reported on Friday, citing UK officials.
The EU ban on arming rebels
expired last Monday, paving the way for the UK to send weapons to forces
fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.
France and Britain, the biggest
supporters of scrapping the embargo, have officially said they had not yet
decided to arm rebel forces in Syria. A British official cited in the Financial
Times report said, however, that, barring a diplomatic solution to the conflict,
it was highly probable the UK would arm the rebels.
“The precise timing
has not yet been finalized and no decision has yet been taken. But we are likely
to be... shipping arms to the rebels by August,” the official said.
I expect is that over the next two or three months, Western powers will move
low-grade arms supplies in bulk to the rebels. The rebels need ammunition, and a
lot of it, just to keep fighting,” he said.
The United States and Russia
are trying to convene an international conference this month to end the
Washington is hoping that the conference, known as
“Geneva 2” after a first conference last year in the Swiss city, will lead to a
transitional government in Syria.
The Financial Times quoted another
British official as saying that, both in London and Paris, there are
expectations that the US will also begin arming rebels should the June peace
The Times quoted Syrian opposition forces as saying the
UK had promised to arm rebels as part of its efforts to coax the opposition to
take part in the conference.
Syria’s opposition cast doubt on Friday on
hopes of any meaningful progress in the international peace talks, after Assad
said only a referendum could decide whether he should leave power.
Sabra, the acting head of the Syrian National Council opposition coalition, said
it would stay out of any such talks as long as Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas
were fighting alongside Assad’s forces.
It was not clear if the statement
by Sabra was the fragmented organization’s final word.
contributed to this report.