UK, Russia meet to discuss Syrian conflict | News | DW | 13.03.2013
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UK, Russia meet to discuss Syrian conflict

Britain's foreign secretary is meeting with his Russian counterpart, and close Syrian ally, to discuss the crisis - just one day after the UK said it could give weapons to Syrian rebels to ensure an end to the war.

Smoke rises from one of the buildings in the city of Homs March 11, 2013. Picture taken March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Yazan Homsy (SYRIA - Tags: CONFLICT POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Syrien Krieg Homs 11.03.2013

British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov exchanged views on the situation in Syria in London on Wednesday, just one day after Prime Minister David Cameron told a British parliamentary committee that he might sidestep an EU arms embargo on Syria.

Russia is the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has in the past used its veto vote at the United Nations Security Council to protect the Syrian leader from three resolutions put before the assembly in a bid to end the twenty-three month conflict.

Sidestep arms embargo

Cameron on Tuesday told the committee that such a defiant decision would only occur if EU members unanimously agreed to renew the sanctions against both sides fighting in the Syrian civil war.

"I hope that we can persuade our European partners, if and when a further change becomes necessary," Cameron told the parliamentary committee.

If the UK can't persuade EU leaders to veto the embargo in about three months, "then it's not out of the question we might have to do things in our own way," Cameron. "It's possible."

"We are still an independent country, we can have an independent foreign policy," he added.

EU member states are scheduled to vote on a renewal of the embargo every three months which bans sales to both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and Syrian opposition fighters.

During the last round of voting, the UK managed to convince the 27-member bloc to ease restrictions, allowing the Syrian opposition to receive non-lethal equipment, such as armor and armed vehicles.

Despite the small victory for allies of the forces fighting to oust President al-Assad, reports from the region depict a situation that shows no sign of improving.

The United Nations special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said earlier this week that a diplomatic solution was the only path toward restoring political stability in Syria. Military intervention would lead to a situation "similar or even worse than Somalia."

West divided

But Western leaders remain divided over how to protect Syrians and the region, with some, such as the UK, becoming eager to act quickly.

Over 70,000 people have perished in the fighting that began nearly two years ago between government forces and anti-Assad groups, according to the UN. Within Syria, at least 2 million people have been displaced, plus an additional 1 million who have fled to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

Referring to the possibility of defying EU policy, Cameron said that the UK planned to support the joint effort for as long as possible.

"I hope we don't have to break from a collaborative approach across the EU," Cameron said.

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

jlw/ipj (AFP, Reuters)

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