European diplomats have ended an arms embargo on Syria, raising the possibility some European countries could begin selling weapons to rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. The European Union renewed economic sanctions against Syria, but failed to reach a consensus on extending the arms ban after Britain and France sought to ease it. British Foreign Secretary William Hague hailed the move.
William Hague: “The European Union has agreed to bring to an end the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition and to maintain other sanctions on Syria, all the other existing sanctions on the Syrian regime. This is the outcome that the United Kingdom wanted. It has been difficult for many nations, of course. That is why we’ve had such long discussions today, over the last 12 or 13 hours or so. But I think it is the right decision.”
Following the EU decision, Russia now says it will move ahead with deliveries of anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. The Assad regime received another boost Saturday when the head of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah vowed to commit his fighters to defending the Syrian president. In the latest sign of spillover from the conflict, unidentified gunmen reportedly killed three soldiers at a Lebanese border checkpoint today before fleeing into Syria. Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. John McCain paid a surprise visit to Syria on Monday where he met with leaders of the rebel group Free Syrian Army. McCain has pushed for more direct U.S. involvement in the conflict, including arming the rebels.