Syrian rebels seek missile supply

 

Beirut

Syrian opposition figures will push at a donor conference in London today for the provision of anti-aircraft missile systems to repel President Bashar al-Assad's devastating airstrikes, as momentum builds to adjust a European Union arms embargo.

Abdulbaset Seida, former head of the Syrian National Council which holds over a third of the seats in a new opposition coalition, said representatives would lay out three key demands – for formal recognition of the coalition, financial support and anti-aircraft weapons so they can establish a no fly zone without international intervention.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said would like to see the EU embargo revisited to potentially allow for the sale of "defensive arms" to the rebels, while David Cameron held a ministerial meeting to discuss policy options to solve the crisis.

Since opposition groups forged a more representative coalition to unite the disparate strands of the opposition in Doha last week, both Britain and France have ramped up their rhetoric, leading to speculation that military support is being considered.

"France's position for the moment is to say that we must not militarise the conflict, but it is evidently unacceptable that there are liberated zones and that they be bombarded by Bashar's planes," Mr Fabius said. "The issue of defensive arms will be raised."

However, it remains unclear if such comments are diplomatic bluster designed to ratchet up pressure on the regime. Any change to the embargo, without which military support from Europe is impossible, involves the agreement of all member states and could take months to push through.

The US has taken a much more cautious tack with Obama warning on Wednesday night that the world should be "on guard" about indirectly "putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans harm".

Still, as Turkey yesterday became the latest country to recognise the coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, opposition figures remained positive.

"We believe that as the coalition is recognised the legal broker for the Syrian people, it will basically be given all the resources and means necessary to end the suffering of the Syrian people, including sophistically weaponry that will enable Syrian revolutionaries on the ground to enforce a no fly zone without foreign intervention," said Yaser Tabbara, a spokesman for the new body, officially known as the National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and the Syrian Opposition.

Mr Tabbara said France had broken an impasse, and he expected the UK to follow suit after today's meeting in London, where representatives of from the Gulf, Europe and US will meet with the new opposition leaders.

The UK has said it wants assurances over the mechanisms for reporting and accountability within the new body before it can step up support. Jon Wilks, the UK representative to the Syrian opposition, said it is "not enough to ask for suitcases full of money", and stressed that UK policy remains focused on "non-lethal" assistance.

"We need weapons to finish the job," said Haitham al Maleh, a veteran dissident and coalition member. "The situation is desperate. If the West will not take a positive step at this time, then they will be responsible for the situation that unfolds in Syria, and the consequences of that will be felt across the world."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager / Section Manager - Airport Security

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a critical role within the secur...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Senior / Assistant Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn