EU stops short of endorsing opposition

Sat, Dec 15, 2012, 00:00

SYRIA:European leaders have agreed to explore “all options” to support Syria’s civilian population but stopped short of recognising the opposition coalition as its only legitimate representative.

European Council president Herman von Rompuy said leaders were “appalled” by the deteriorating situation and aware of their “moral duty” when faced with the loss of innocent lives.

But leaders declined to back a British proposal to boost material support to the opposition by reviewing the weapons embargo.

Arming rebels

British prime minister David Cameron said after talks yesterday “inaction and indifference are not options” and all options remained on the table. He got agreement for EU foreign ministers to look again at arming rebels at the ministers’ next meeting on January 31st.

“I want us to work with the opposition . . . so that we can see the speediest possible transition in Syria,” he said.

He was backed by French president François Hollande, who urged EU leaders to focus on assisting efforts to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

German chancellor Angela Merkel was more cautious, blocking a shift on the weapons embargo while demanding that “a political transition has to take place, the future has to be without Assad”. “If it comes to a transition and removal of Assad,” she said, work has to take place on the basis of human rights and the protection of minorities.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny agreed on the need to protect minorities, in particular Syria’s Christian community, and an end to the “illegitimate” Assad regime.

EU leaders said they welcome this week’s meeting in Marrakech at which more than 120 countries and organisations formally recognised the opposition coalition.