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EU: need for political solution in Syria

Sunday 24 March 2013, by siawi3

Dublin March 24

The European Union stressed on Saturday the need for a political solution to end the carnage in Syria as the collapse of Lebanon’s government triggered fresh fears of a regional spillover.

Winding up two-day talks with Foreign Ministers, in which Britain and France failed to win support from partners to arm Syria’s rebels, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the onus instead had to be on a political settlement.

“We must try to give new momentum to a political solution,” Ms. Ashton said, including fresh economic and political support to the opposition and further pressure on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to negotiate.

“I cannot say how much we have a sense of urgency on Syria and the neighbouring countries,” she said at a news conference held after Lebanon’s government fell over divisions triggered by the two-year civil war across the border.

Debate over whether to lift the nearly two-year-old EU arms embargo, in order to supply arms — including ground-to-air missiles and other heavy weaponry — to Syrian rebels topped talks between the EU Foreign Ministers in Dublin.

An agreement is needed by May 31 sanctions against the Assad regime, including the near two-year-old embargo. While reviewing existing sanctions was part of the effort to reach a political solution, EU nations remained reluctant to supply offensive weapons to the opposition, influential Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said.

Mr. Bildt, who played a prominent role in seeking an end to the Balkans conflicts in the mid-1990s — notably acting on behalf of the EU and U.N.— said there was “an interesting parallel” between the Balkans and Syria, where U.N. Security Council permanent members China and Russia are in disagreement with the others. — AFP