Voice

Qatar bashes EU for Syria arms embargo

Qatar's prime minister, Hamed bin Jassim Al Thani, had some tough words for the European Union after it decided to extend its blanket arms embargo on Syria. Via the Guardian:

"I am astonished at this decision," Bin Jassim said. "The rebels only want to be able to defend themselves. At the present time this is the wrong decision. It will only prolong the crisis."

Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia, has supplied money and weapons to the anti-Assad forces but is understood to have been pressured by western governments to ease up because of growing concern that weapons are being funnelled to radical or jihadi groups that are not under the influence of the western-backed Syrian National Coalition. Rebel forces have complained that weapons and ammunition are drying up.

The Multilateralist

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.