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Britain could sidestep EU ban on arming Syria rebels: Cameron

PTI London | Updated on March 12, 2018

Britain would consider ignoring a European Union arms ban and supplying weapons to Syrian rebels if it would help topple President Bashar al-Assad, Prime Minister David Cameron said today.

The EU last month amended its embargo to allow member nations to supply “non-lethal” equipment and training to the opposition but stopped short of lifting the embargo entirely.

Asked by a parliamentary committee whether Britain would veto the arms embargo when it comes up for renewal in three months’ time, Cameron said he would “like to continue with an EU approach.”

“I hope that we can persuade our European partners if and when it becomes necessary (to provide weapons) they’ll agree with us,” he told the House of Commons Liaison Committee.

“But if we can’t, then it’s not out of the question we might have to do things in our own way. It’s possible.

“We are still an independent country, we can have an independent foreign policy.”

Pressed on whether Britain could sidestep the arms ban, Cameron said: “If for instance we felt that action needed to be taken to help bring about change in Syria, to help end this appalling bloodshed, and if we felt our European partners were holding that back, then we’d have to change the approach.”

When the committee said that arming the rebels could be risky the British premier replied: “That is not a decision we’ve taken and I hope we don’t have to break from a collaborative approach across the EU.

“I was just making a point that if we thought that was the right thing to do, we would do it.”

The 27-member EU is split over whether to supply arms to the Syrian rebels, with Britain, France and Italy tipping in favour of eventual military aid for the opposition and Germany and others warning against it.

The EU is the largest humanitarian donor for the Syrian crisis, with more than 428 million euros ($556 million) sent to help distressed Syrians inside and outside the country.

Published on March 13, 2013

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