France, Britain to arm Syrian rebels even without EU accord: French FM
Paris, March 14 : French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Thursday said Paris and London will arm the Syrian opposition even if the European Union (EU) refuses to give its unanimous agreement.
In an interview with the local radio France Info, Fabius said the two countries will call on their European partners to speed up the removal of Syrian arms embargo.
The arms embargo is part of a package of EU sanctions on Syria that currently roll over every three months, with the last extension unanimously agreed by the EU last month and which came into effect on March 1. Without unanimous agreement to either renew or amend the ban in three months' time, the embargo lapses.
"The position that we have taken ... is to request the lifting of arms embargo because it is one of the few remaining ways to move the political situation," the French foreign minister said.
As France is "a sovereign nation", the country will decide in coordination with Britain, that has the same position, to supply weapons to rebels if the EU would not give its unanimous support to help the Syrian fighters to "defend themselves."
The EU was scheduled to review the embargo on the rebels' arming late May. Meanwhile Fabius stressed the need to move up the meeting before the end of March.
"We have to go very fast. The Europeans are supposed to look at this question in several weeks, but we will ask with the British to bring forward that meeting," the French top diplomat said.
Earlier reports said the two-year-conflict in the Arab country has left 70,000 dead people and more than one million refugees.