BRUSSELS - The European Union may end this week either helping Syrian rebels or the Damascus government they detest, depending on how EU ministers resolve differences over a package of sanctions on Syria that is about to lapse.
At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, the main EU military powers, Britain and France, will argue forcefully for easing some of that embargo to help channel weapons to rebels fighting President Bashar Assad. But Austria, Sweden and several others will defend maintaining the sanctions across the board.
Failure to find a compromise could mean the entire package simply vanishes when it expires on Saturday, June 1 - London has already raised the stakes by threatening to veto a full renewal.
But it is unlikely the EU will offer such a shot in the arm to Assad by giving up on measures intended to cripple his government's ability to trade and raise money and also to curb the movements and personal wealth of his family and confidants.
EU officials see compromise - possibly by delaying an easing of the arms embargo until after peace talks or by limiting the types of weapon allowed and which rebel groups may receive them.