EU agrees to extend sanctions until mid-May
The European Union yesterday agreed to extend sanctions to Syria by three months, despite calls from Britain to lift the embargo to allow greater support for the rebel army.
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed to extend the existing sanctions until mid-May, but amended them to provide “greater non-lethal support and technical assistance for the protection of civilians”.
Britain, with the support of a handful of countries, had called for the sanctions to be fully lifted, so that weapons could be provided for the rebel forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad. The amendments will allow non-military and protective equipment to be shipped into Syria.
Speaking in Brussels after yesterday’s meeting, Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said the decision provided clarification of existing provisions within the sanctions.
“It is [now] clarified that non-lethal equipment may be made available, where it is required, to protect the civilian population. But it is not a lifting of the arms embargo, it’s not a relaxation of it.
“Our view, and I think the general view of the Foreign Affairs Council, was that the situation in Syria should not be further militarised. We’re seeing shocking slaughter taking place in Syria. We need to pursue a political path to a peaceful resolution of the situation there.”
Also under discussion was the situation in Mali, with the EU underlining its commitment to providing humanitarian aid to the region.
The EU’s training mission to Mali, which will be responsible for providing the Malian armed forces with military training and advice, was also officially launched. Ireland is one of a number of countries supplying personnel to it.