FRANCE 24 (France), ITAR-TASS (Russia), BBC NEWS (UK), RT (Russia), LE MONDE (France)
BRUSSELS – European Union members decided not to renew the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition early Tuesday, in one of the strongest actions taken to date by the West against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
“Tonight EU nations agreed to bring the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition to an end,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement, adding that it was a “difficult decision for some countries,” France 24 reports.
After a 12-hour discussion in Brussels, Hague welcomed the lifting of the embargo, saying it was "important for Europe to send a clear signal to the Assad regime that it has to negotiate seriously and that all options remain on the table if it refuses to do so", the BBC reports.
Russia's envoy to NATO Aleksndr Grushko said that the abolition of the EU arms embargo on the Syrian opposition will only exacerbate armed conflict in the country. Russia has been delivering S-300 long-range air defense systems to the Syrian Government for two years. “We consider this delivery a factor of stabilization.” Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told RT.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton declared at a news conference late on Monday that the member states had agreed not to "proceed at this stage with the delivery" of equipment until now subject to the ban," the BBC adds.
The European Union will consider again the problem of arms supplies in Syria before August 1, after the international peace conference “Geneva 2” scheduled for June, Itar-Tass reports.
Meanwhile, the fighting is still raging in Syria, especially around the strategic border town of Qusair. On Monday, France's Le Monde newspaper published first-hand accounts of apparent chemical attacks by Assad's forces.