EU ministers slam UN for Syria "failure"

EU ministers slam UN for Syria "failure"

European Union foreign ministers on Friday sharply criticized the United Nations Security Council for failing to present a united front on Syria, DPA reported.

"This is a real failure of the security council ... that the world community cannot find common ground to stop these atrocities and barbarities," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said as he arrived for an informal meeting with his counterparts in Cyprus.

Russia and China have repeatedly blocked council moves to condemn or introduce sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"Can we let a civil war take hold indefinitely because some countries are exercising their veto right in the Security Council?" Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders added. "I have to say that there is now hesitation between that absolute respect of a Security Council agreement and the duty to intervene."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle described Moscow and Beijing's positions as "very criticizable," but he also expressed hope that the 10 days left before the next UN General Assembly in New York could be used for another attempt to convince the two holdouts.

"It is not in their own national interest to keep holding a protective hand over the Assad regime," he told reporters. "It is not only the West that wants a new start in Syria. It is the whole Arab world and that should make Beijing and Moscow think."

Syrian rebels have called for the international community to step up its support by sending them weapons. Reynders did not rule out such a move, but only if there was "a completely united opposition" in the Middle Eastern country.

Others, however, swiftly rejected the idea of the EU getting involved in such an approach.

"We have an EU arms embargo on Syria, so it's not possible or legal for any EU nation to send weapons to anybody in Syria," British Foreign Minister William Hague said. "Therefore, our chosen route ... is to give non-lethal assistance and we are doing that."

He said the Syrian opposition has received communications equipment and water purification kits, among other things. There is now talk of sending them "protective clothing" too, although it would have to be in line with the arms embargo, Hague said.

The EU has also funnelled support to the refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis, with its executive pledging a further 50 million euros (63 million dollars) in humanitarian aid to Syria and neighbouring countries on Friday.

EU aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva in Brussels called on other donors to step up their contributions too, saying there were now 240,000 refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Meeting only some 300 kilometres from the Syrian coast, the foreign ministers downplayed suggestions that some of those refugees could be brought to the EU, putting the onus instead on helping Syrians on the ground.

But ultimately, the situation is unlikely to improve until Assad is gone, ministers said.

"We have to go for the roots, which is the change of regime," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "It is unacceptable for this regime, which murders its people, to stay."

Fabius has joined forces with his Italian counterpart, Giulio Terzi, to push for an "extraordinary meeting" of the foreign ministers dedicated to Syria on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, which gets underway on September 18.

"The weeks of this rotten regime are numbered," the pair wrote in a letter to Ashton seen by dpa. "Should we fail in Syria, stability in the Middle East would be disrupted and Europe's security ... seriously threatened."

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