Syrian arms embargo needs close review, says Cameron

Arab World Materials 17 December 2012 23:30 (UTC +04:00)
Western countries are facing a moral and strategic imperative to assist opposition forces in Syria as the country attracts a "new cohort of al-Qaeda-linked extremists," British Prime Minister David Cameron warned Monday.
Syrian arms embargo needs close review, says Cameron

Western countries are facing a moral and strategic imperative to assist opposition forces in Syria as the country attracts a "new cohort of al-Qaeda-linked extremists," British Prime Minister David Cameron warned Monday.

This, according to Cameron, should and would include reviewing an arms embargo upon the country, dpa reported.

"We must now explore all options to support the opposition to enable greater support for the protection of civilians," said Cameron. "It is right to look at amending the arms embargo; of course, we will be keeping the arms embargo on the regime."

But letting arms into Syria runs the risk of letting them fall into the wrong hands.

"Syria is attracting and empowering a new cohort of al-Qaeda-linked extremists," said Cameron, without going into further details.

The comments came the same day Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa was quoted in an interview saying that neither his government's forces nor the opposition rebels fighting to overthrow the regime can win the war.

Al-Sharaa, 74, comes from the southern province of Daraa, the cradle of the uprising that started in March 2011. He is a prominent Sunni Muslim serving in President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority-dominated regime. He also worked for Hafez al-Assad, the president's father.

"No opposition can end the battle militarily, just as the security forces and army cannot achieve a decisive conclusion," al-Sharaa told the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar.

Al-Sharaa said the only way to end the 22-month old crisis was a "historic settlement" and the formation of a national unity government.

"The solution has to be Syrian, but through an historic settlement, which would include the main regional countries, and members of UN Security Council," he said.

"This settlement must include ... the creation of a national unity government with wide powers," he added.

"The various opposition forces - whether armed or civilian, or linked to foreign powers - cannot claim they are the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people.

"... The current governing power, with its army possessing its own ideology, as well as its political parties, with the Baath party at the forefront, cannot alone create changes without new partners."

However, Walid al-Bunni, a prominent opposition figure, told dpa that al-Sharaa's statement "came too late and we cannot accept that those killing the Syrian people stay in power."

In August, there were conflicting reports that al-Sharaa had defected or was placed under house arrest by the regime.

That month, Turkey suggested that al-Sharaa would be a suitable figure to lead a transition government in Syria.

Cameron said in London that action needs to come soon.

"A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Syria on our watch, with over 40,000 dead and millions in need of urgent assistance as a hard winter approaches," said Cameron.

That is why European Union (EU) leaders were encouraging "political transition from the top and to support the opposition which is attempting to force a transition from below."

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov warned that his country would use its veto powers on the UN Security Council against any resolution for a military intervention in Syria and "this includes the deployment of peacekeepers," according to Interfax news agency.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Syria, a child was killed and several people wounded when troops renewed their shelling on the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Yarmouk for a second day, prompting many families to flee.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said people in the camp were fleeing en masse for other parts of Damascus.

Rebels said they stormed the headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, General Command, headed by regime ally Ahmad Jebril.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, in a letter addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the "Palestinians must not harbour terrorist groups inside the al-Yarmuk camp."

Al-Yarmouk is the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. There are some 500,000 Palestinians in Syria. Their loyalties are divided between the government and the opposition.

Abu Mustapha, a rebel commander from the extremist al-Nousra Front, told dpa that more reinforcements were brought into the Damascus suburb of Daraya, a key area located near the Mezzeh international airport, a major stronghold of the regime.

Troops have been trying to storm the area since Thursday.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement distributed in Beirut that, as a result of escalation in Syria, infrastructure has been considerably degraded, leading to the risk of spreading health problems due to problems of water distribution.