Britain arming Syrian rebels would face MP vote

Britain arming Syrian rebels would face MP vote
Britain’s parliament will vote on whether to start sending arms to the Syrian opposition, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said. He also expressed his concerns that government forces are “gaining ground” in Syria, ‘undermining’ negotiations.

No decision on sending arms to Syrian rebels had yet been taken, Hague assured on Sunday in an interview to the BBC.

“There would be a vote one way or the other,” the British foreign secretary added, admitting that not everyone supports such a move in the country. Some people have “understandable concerns,” he said.

However, Hague himself apparently advocated the rebels’ “right to defend themselves,” saying the world “denies” them such a “right.”

Despite Britain had lobbied vigorously to lift the EU embargo on arms shipments to Syria side by side with France, the UK government now appears to be split on the issue. Some ministers fear that sending arms to rebels would not only worsen the bloodshed in Syria, but also drag Britain into the conflict.

Hague also remained skeptical of the two conflicting sides coming together at a Geneva peace conference, and blamed the recent gains of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces for making negotiations even less possible.

“The regime has gained ground. That makes the Geneva conference harder to bring about and to make a success. It makes it less likely that the regime will make enough concessions in such negotiations, and it makes it harder to get the opposition to come to the negotiations,” Hague argued.

The UK Foreign Secretary was apparently referring to the retaking of the strategic western Syrian town of Qusair on the border with Lebanon, which is believed to have cut an important supply route for the rebels.

Russia has blasted the EU’s move to lift the Syrian arms embargo as “an unlawful” decision and an example of double standards.”

Syrian army soldiers patrol a street in the village of Buweida, north of Qusayr, in Syria's central Homs province. Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have now seized all of the Qusayr area in central Syria, state television reported on Saturday, as troops overran the last rebel bastion in the area.(AFP Photo / STR )

“This is an unlawful decision, in principle, to discuss seriously on official level the issue of supplying or not supplying arms to non-state actors is contrary to all norms of international law,” the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, citing the Global Arms Trade Treaty, which allows supplying arms to governments only.

Meanwhile, a report by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebels shot down a 15-year-old child in front of his parents for what they considered a “blasphemy.”

“An unidentified rebel group shot dead a 15-year-old child who worked as a coffee seller in Aleppo, after they accused him of blasphemy,” the Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said as quoted by Al Jazeera.

“They shot the boy twice, once in the mouth, another in his neck, in front of his mother, his father and his siblings,” Abdel Rahman said, detailing the atrocity.

The rights activist blamed foreign jihadists of the “criminal” deed, citing reports that the offenders spoke “classical Arabic.” He condemned the shooting, saying it is the kind of criminality that “makes people in Syria fear the fall of the regime.”