Syria weapons embargo lifted: No decision yet on arming rebels, says William Hague


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The Independent Online

Britain can start arming Syrian rebels straight away but currently there are no plans to do so, Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.

After European Union foreign ministers last night lifted the embargo on supplying arms to Syrian opposition forces, Mr Hague said there was no August deadline before weapons shipments could begin.

It was thought that no shipments could take place before August 1 when the EU Foreign Affairs Council was due to review its position on the basis of a report by EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton, following consultation with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, on developments in the US-Russia peace initiative and on the engagement of the Syrian parties.

But Mr Hague today confirmed that the Government would be able to arm the rebels right away but said no decision had been made yet.

He told Radio 4's The World At One: "I must correct one thing because I know there's been discussion of some sort of August deadline.

"That is not the case, there will be a discussion in the EU by August 1 but from now on... we have said we have made our own commitments that at this stage as we work for the Geneva conference we are not taking any decision to send any arms to anyone.

"But that is not related to a date of August 1, I don't want anyone to think that therefore there is any automatic decision after August 1 or that we are excluded from doing so beforehand."