Sergei Lavrov

 

The European Union’s decision not to extend an embargo on arms supplies to the Syrian opposition is illegitimate, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. The Voice of Russia correspondent Olga Denisova reports.

 

Update 20.20

“This decision is quite controversial in itself, because the international law bans arms supplies to non-governmental entities,” Lavrov told journalists in Paris on Tuesday.

“This decision is illegitimate in principle,” he said.

A number of steps being taken with the involvement of Russia’s Western partners are leading to the disruption of the idea of an international conference on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“We have pointed out that a number of actions that are being taken – and they are not being taken without the involvement and support of our Western partners, including the U.S. and France – are advancing, willingly or unwillingly, the disruption of the idea to convene a conference,” Lavrov told journalists in Paris on Tuesday in commenting on outcomes of his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has described as “foul” attempts to blame Russia for conniving at Iran’s policy in the nuclear sphere. “It is a foul gimmick, generally speaking.

We would be the last to accept violations of the nonproliferation regime by the new nuclear states,” Lavrov told reporters in Paris on Tuesday.

Iran is one of the key countries that need to take part in an international conference on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

“We insist on Iran’s involvement in Syria’s affairs and the conference on Syria, primarily because all countries with influence on these or those Syrian parties must be represented there without exception. Iran is undeniably one of the crucial countries from this circle,” Lavrov told journalists in Paris on Tuesday.

In commenting on his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Lavrov said his counterparts agreed that clarity is needed on the composition of participants in the international conference on Syria.

“Importantly, this concerns not only the Syrians who will be representing various strata of Syrian society. This also concerns external players, and the problem of Iran is a key one for us,” he said.


UK and France free to arm Syrian rebels after EU embargo ends

Britain and France have won the freedom to supply weapons to Syrian rebel groups after EU governments failed to renew an arms embargo which expires June 1.

The two nations lobbying for months for an easing of the embargo prevailed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. The negotiating session dragged on for more than 13 hours and resulted in EU letting a ban on arming the Syrian opposition to expire.

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said the decision sent “a very strong message” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about the need to seek a political solution to the conflict.

Both London, the prime mover behind the EU decision, and Paris have made a commitment not to deliver arms to the Syrian opposition “at this stage”. The commitment expires on August 1.

The ministers agreed that any countries that opted to send arms to Syria would have to provide assurances about the types of weapons supplied and the recipients.

It was also decided that other economic sanctions on Syria will be prolonged by 12 months. They include asset freezes and travel bans on Bashar al-Assad and senior Syrian officials, as well as curbs on trade, infrastructure projects and the transport sector.

London and Paris have argued for months that Europe must send a strong signal of support for Syrian rebels fighting Mr. Assad by giving the green light for EU arms deliveries.

But they ran into strong opposition from other EU member states including Austria, the Czech Republic and Sweden, which argued that sending more weapons to the region would make the violence even worse and could see heavy weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups.

Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said he regretted it had not been possible to find a compromise with Britain and France.

“The people in Syria being killed in this conflict wouldn’t benefit if we ship weapons. It would result in an arms race,” said Michael Spindelegger.

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, sought to repair any damage to the bloc’s image, saying Monday’s decision did not mean the EU has lost the capacity to “have a common policy.”

 “What it does mean is there is a recognition that in trying to establish how best to support the people of Syria, countries will want to make some decisions (on their own),” she said.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, The Guardian, Businessweek