End of EU's arms embargo harms Syria peace bid: Lavrov

29th May 2013, Comments 0 comments

Russia warned on Wednesday that the European Union's decision to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels harmed joint Russian-US efforts for an international peace conference over the 26-month crisis.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the EU's original ban on arming the opposition made little sense because the 27-nation bloc's own laws prohibited it from sending weapons to "non-state entities" -- leaderships not formally recognised by the United Nations.

"And now, the end of this embargo makes the situation even more complicated and -- at the very least -- presents a serious stumbling block to implementing the decision to call an international conference on Syria," Lavrov told reporters.

The European Union agreed to lift its embargo on arming the opposition on Monday after much debate and a strong push for the move by France and Britain.

EU officials stress that this was a "theoretical" lifting of the embargo that would not take effect until August 1 at the earliest because Brussels did not want to hurt the peace talks promoted by Moscow and Washington.

The proposed "Geneva 2" meeting is expected to happen some time next month after US Secretary of State John Kerry and Lavrov agreed in May to try and bring the warring sides together at the conference.

The first Geneva talks held in the Swiss city last June produced a tentative transition of power plan that was never implemented because it failed to specify a role for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Lavrov said spreading violence and the growing involvement of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah proved once again "that there is no other way besides convening this conference".

"And for this, everyone needs to work honestly and not allow double standards," Russia's top diplomat said.

© 2013 AFP

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