UK will not arm Syrian rebels despite Russia's arming of regime

Amer Sultan in London, Wednesday 29 May 2013

Russia has decided to supply Syrian regime with anti-aircraft missiles as a 'stabilising factor'

The UK has said it is still committed to its pledge not to send arms to Syrian rebels, despite Russia’s insistence on arming Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad.

“We have made no decision to supply arms to Syria,” a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman told Ahram Online.

The UK, however, has strongly criticised the Russian decision to go ahead with deliveries of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syrian army. 

“Of course we disapprove strongly of continued arms sales to the regime,” the FCO spokesman said.

He refused to comment on whether his country has already incited, by its enthusiasm to arm the Syrian opposition, an arm race and gave Al-Assad allies excuse to give him more weapons. 

Moscow says arming the Syrian governmental forces will deter foreign intervention in Syria, adding that the missiles were a "stabilising factor" that could dissuade "some hotheads" from entering the conflict.

The UK, with French support, played a crucial role convincing EU foreign ministers to lift the arms embargo on Syria, allowing the European countries to arm what they call moderate opposition in Syria.

After the EU decision on Monday, the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said “we now have the flexibility to respond in the future if the situation continues to deteriorate and if the Assad regime refuses to negotiate.” 

Despite its anger at the Russian decision, the UK government will still focus on the upcoming Geneva 2 peace conference, according to the FCO spokesman.

“We will be working closely with our partners and Russia to give it the best chance of making progress,” he added.

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