Voice

Britain loses battle to arm Syrian rebels

The European Union has resisted a British-led push to modify the EU arms embargo on Syria and allow weapons shipments to rebel forces. Via the Washington Post's Edward Cody:

Rejecting a push by Britain, European governments on Monday decided against providing weapons to Syrian rebel forces, expressing fears that more arms would only lead to more bloodshed in a conflict that already has taken nearly 70,000 lives....

The European Union imposed an arms embargo against Syria in May 2011, covering the government as well as the rebels, but it was scheduled to expire March 1. Monday’s decision renewed the ban for three more months, but, in what was portrayed as a compromise, it contained a promise to alter the terms to permit the supply of more nonlethal equipment designed to save civilian lives.

The relevant provision of the Council's conclusions reads as follows:

The Council agreed to renew the restrictive measures against Syria for a further three
months, amending them so as to provide greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians. The Council will actively continue the work underway to assess and review, if necessary, the sanctions regime against Syria in order to support and help the opposition.

In the same meeting, the EU foreign ministers almost—but not quite—called for a referral of the Syrian violence to the International Criminal Court:

The EU calls on the UN Security Council to urgently address the situation in Syria in these aspects, including on a possible referral to the International Criminal Court as requested in the Swiss letter to the Security Council of 14 January 2013. The EU recalls that all those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes must be held accountable.

The Multilateralist

The Security Council's non-meeting on climate change

On Friday, the UN Security Council will meet to consider the security implications of climate change. Council diplomats will hear from the secretary general, a top World Bank official, a leading climate expert, and representatives of island states most directly affected. For the assembled diplomats, it promises to be chock full of information. However informative, the meeting is not technically a Security Council session. Instead, it's an "Arria formula" gathering. The UN describes them this way:

"Arria-formula meetings" are very informal, confidential gatherings which enable Security Council members to have a frank and private exchange of views, within a flexible procedural framework, with persons whom the inviting member or members of the Council (who also act as the facilitators or convenors) believe it would be beneficial to hear and/or to whom they may wish to convey a message. They provide interested Council members an opportunity to engage in a direct dialogue with high representatives of Governments and international organizations — often at the latter’s request — as well as non-State parties, on matters with which they are concerned and which fall within the purview of responsibility of the Security Council.

Informality is a key attribute of these meetings, but so too is deniability; the Arria formula allows Council diplomats to meet even when key members doubt that the subject merits a meeting. As Security Council Report points out, China, Russia and a few other members are not keen to have the Council grapple with climate change any more than it already has.