Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that the arming of Syrian rebels would break international law. His words followed a meeting with his counterpart in Britain, which has hinted it might send arms.
Lavrov said that he believed the destiny of the Syrian people should be determined by them alone and that international law prevented the supply of weapons to rebels.
"Arming the opposition is in breach of international law," Lavrov said at a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
"International law does not allow, does not permit supplies of arms to nongovernmental actors," Lavrov said, "and in our point of view it is a violation of international law."
Russia itself has sold weapons to the Syrian government and has repeatedly blocked resolutions against the government of President Bashar al-Assad at the United Nations. Several nations have called for the Security Council to take action over the crackdown that has followed the rebellion.
Lavrov also said that Russia would not use its influence with the Syrian leadership to encourage regime change.
"I believe the destiny of Bashar al-Assad should be decided by the Syrians themselves," he said.
Meanwhile, Hague restated his desire for UN Security Council-backed measures against al-Assad, but said no agreement had been reached with Lavrov. He repeated that Britain did not rule out arming the rebels, a stance that France is understood to back.
The joint talks in London on Wednesday come a day after Prime Minister David Cameron hinted that Britain might veto any extension of an EU arms embargo that blocks the supplying of weapons to either side in the conflict.
On Tuesday, Cameron had told a parliamentary committee that such a defiant decision would only occur if EU members unanimously agreed to renew the sanctions against both sides in the civil war.
EU member states are scheduled to vote on a renewal of the embargo every three months.
rc/mkg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)