Skip to main content

The European Dilemmas On Arming Syrian Rebels

An initiative to lift the European Union’s arms embargo to Syria and increase support to rebels has been met with strong EU opposition; the EU is unlikely to move further on that issue.
A view is seen of damaged buildings at Baba Amro neighborhood in Homs city, after clashes between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and fighters of the Free Syrian Army, is seen in this handout photograph distributed by Syria's national news agency SANA March 27, 2013. REUTERS/SANA/Handout (SYRIA - Tags: CONFLICT CIVIL UNREST RELIGION) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. FOR EDITORIA

These last weeks have been marked by a new diplomatic battle within the European Union over the question of lifting the current embargo on arms to Syria in order to raise the level of support to the rebels on the ground. The issue grew in earnest during an EU Summit in Brussels in mid-March when French President François Hollande stated straightforwardly, “We want the Europeans to lift the embargo on the weapons. Since we have to put pressure on and show we are ready to support the opposition, we have to go that far.” London is on the same page, as British Prime Minister David Cameron made similar statements in the days that followed. 

The current EU arms embargo on Syria was imposed in May 2011, when the Assad regime was brutally suppressing the first peaceful protests. It included a ban on arms, military equipment and equipment which might be used for internal repression. It had already been slightly amended in February 2013 “to provide greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians”.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.