Britain and France are providing support to the Syrian rebels in their war against President Bashar al-Assad without the full backing of the European Union.
The two nations plan to call on the EU to move up the date of its next meeting on its arms embargo against Syria – but both have said they will arm the rebels on their own even if the European body votes against it.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius formally called for lifting the EU arms embargo in a statement Wednesday.
“We must go further and allow the Syrian people to defend themselves against this bloody regime,” he wrote in the daily Liberation newspaper.
“It’s our duty to help the [Syrian National] Coalition, its leaders and the Free Syrian Army by all means possible... We must convince our partners, particularly in Europe, that we no longer have any other choice than to lift the embargo on arms to benefit the Coalition.”
The publication of the article was timed to mark the second anniversary of the start of the savage Syrian conflict that began with a simple scrawl of graffiti on a wall in Dera’a by a teenager inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings sweeping through the region.
“We’ve just amended [the embargo] so we can supply non-lethal equipment,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said this week, according to the pan-Arabic Al Arabiya news network.
The UK persuaded the EU to relax the embargo to allow quasi-military aid, such as body armor, armored vehicles and medical supplies to be supplied to the Syrian opposition forces.
“I hope we can persuade our European partners, if and when a further change becomes necessary, they’ll agree with us. But if we can’t then it’s not out of the question that we might have to do things in our own way. It’s possible."
The United States has already begun training and equipping a small group of Syrian rebel fighters at special camps in Jordan, with limited assistance from French and British military personnel.