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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

15.06.2013

Аmbassador’s Notebook: Syria: Lifting the EU Arms Embargo

At their recent meeting, EU foreign ministers decided not to extend the embargo on arms shipments to Syria beyond June 1.

Those who want to see the embargo lifted say this will make the Syrian regime more pliable when it comes to a political settlement. This argument is untenable, and the logic is flawed. Despite certain reservations regarding the fact that the physical delivery of weapons will only take place after further decisions (to be taken by August 1) and that the relevant states will only supply weapons to the National Coalition and monitor their intended use, the reality may look different.

The very fact that EU states have shown their willingness to supply weapons to the opposition pushes certain actors in the conflict not toward the negotiating table, but further into armed confrontation. In addition, it complicates Russia’s work with Damascus, as the government also views the aim of this development as being to topple it rather than settle the crisis peacefully.

It is apparent that, in the current situation in Syria – the weapons supplied will be used not only against government forces but also against the civilian population. Nor can we exclude the possibility that these weapons will spread across the region, as happened after the conflict in Libya, when weapons subsequently "popped up" in Mali.

A powerful argument in favor of not supplying weapons to opposition forces is the fact that foreign citizens, and not only from Arab countries, but also from the United States and Europe, are actively involved in the Syrian conflict. There is a strong possibility that they will transport these weapons back to their home countries.

The issue of supplying arms to the Syrian opposition should be considered in the context of the EU’s international obligations. The procedure for signing the UN International Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) started on June, 2013. The Treaty’s main aim is to fight illegal arms transfers.

We have to admit that the very same countries that support the Treaty have started to interpret it subjectively and selectively – depending on particular political preferences. So, using the fact that the ATT, contrary to the aspirations of the majority of states, does not contain any explicit prohibition of the transfer of conventional weapons to non-State actors, the EU took the decision to supply weapons, or to allow the supply of weapons, to the Syrian opposition. This decision is an example of the use of double standards because it obviously contradicts both the spirit and the letter of the International Arms Trade Treaty, as well as existing norms of international law.

The conflict in Syria is becoming increasingly sectarian, and threatens the security of the whole region. The decision taken recently jeopardizes the prospects for a political settlement, and could have serious implications for the stability of this part of the world.




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