British Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Wednesday he will fly to Russia on Friday to discuss the Syrian conflict with President Vladimir Putin.
“There's an urgent need to start a proper negotiation to force a political transition and to bring this conflict to an end, and I will be flying to Sochi on Friday to meet with President Putin to discuss this issue further,” Cameron told the House of Commons as quoted by AFP.
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has meanwhile responded to a U.S.-Russian call for a political solution to Syria's conflict by saying any resolution must include the departure of President Bashar al-Assad.
“The National Coalition welcomes all international efforts which call for a political solution to achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people and their hope for a democratic state, so long as they begin with the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his regime,” the group said on Wednesday according to AFP.
The announcement comes as Britain decided to launch a new drive to lift a European Union arms embargo on Syrian rebels, a document seen by Reuters said on Wednesday.
The lift would strengthen the moderate opposition and ensure the EU could respond flexibly to any chemical weapon attack, the document said.
Several countries in the European Union have resisted efforts by France and Britain to lift an arms embargo to help Syrian opposition fighters, the agency said. The move is feared by some to reach the hands of extremists and escalate the war-torn country.
Negotiations over the embargo are expected to go until the June 1 expiry date of the existing EU sanctions on Syria, Reuters said.
In a discussion paper circulated to EU partners, Britain set out two options for amending current sanctions to allow weapons to be supplied to the opposition Syrian National Coalition.
The first option would fully exempt the coalition from the EU arms embargo while a second option would remove the word “non-lethal” from the sanctions language, opening the way for weapons to be sent, the paper, seen by Reuters, said.
The British document said the situation in Syria was “deteriorating sharply”. Lifting the EU arms embargo on the rebels would help to “head off any reliance by the moderate Syrian opposition on Islamist-backed armed groups”, it said.
“Crucially, it will ensure we can respond flexibly to a major escalation in the conflict, such as chemical weapons attacks,” it added.
Earlier in April, EU foreign ministers eased an oil embargo against Syria with the aim of helping rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Under the deal, European firms seeking to import Syrian crude or invest in the energy sector would ask for authorization from their government, which in turn would confer with NSF to secure its agreement.