Germany skeptical as EU mulls arms for Syrian rebels | News | DW | 22.03.2013
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Germany skeptical as EU mulls arms for Syrian rebels

Ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the possibility of lifting an arms embargo on Syria, Guido Westerwelle has said that Germany’s "no" is not final. However, Berlin remains skeptical about the idea.

In an interview published in Friday's edition of the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Westerwelle said that the idea of sending weapons to help rebels fight against forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad needed to be considered carefully.

"We are skeptical and weighing it up," Westerwelle told the national daily.

At the same time though, he said that it was also clear that there were no signs that things in Syria were about to get better anytime soon.

It was "difficult to see the opposition suffer," the foreign minister said. "We know that in a changing situation, we have to be prepared to make changes to our policy."

Westerwelle reiterated the concern that arming the rebels could make the conflict even worse.

"The danger that weapons could fall into the wrong hands also weighs heavily," he said.

The European Union first imposed an arms embargo on Syria in May 2011, in a bid to help stop the fighting.

Britain and France, however, have since pushed for the embargo to be lifted so that EU countries can support the rebels by supplying them with arms. The rest of the 27-member bloc is skeptical at best about the issue, which threatened to cause a foreign policy split during the last EU summit in Brussels. The leaders temporarily defused the problem by assigning their foreign ministers to discuss the issue at this Friday's meeting in Dublin.

Both Britain and France have threatened to flout the arms embargo if the rest of their EU partners refuse to lift it.

On Friday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reiterated their call for the embargo to be lifted.

"The crisis is increasingly threatening regional stability ... and we are increasingly concerned about the regime's willingness to use chemical weapons," Hague and Fabius wrote in a letter to the EU's foreign policy coordinator, Catherine Ashton.

pfd/rc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)