Syria slams EU arms decision as peace ‘obstruction’

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Syria’s government on Tuesday slammed an EU decision to lift a ban on supplying arms to rebel fighters as an “obstruction” of efforts to resolve the conflict in the country peacefully.

“The European Union’s decision exposes... its obstruction of international efforts to achieve a political settlement to the crisis in Syria,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement published by state news agency SANA.

The statement also accused the EU of providing “support and encouragement to terrorists by providing them with weapons in clear violation of international law and the U.N. Charter.”

It comes after the EU decided to lift an arms embargo on the Syrian rebels, opening the way for individual member states to supply weapons to the opposition.

The decision maintains sanctions on the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which has been battling an uprising that began in March 2011.

EU members are not expected to begin delivering weapons to rebels in the near future, delaying to allow a U.S.-Russian bid for a peace conference in Geneva next month to proceed.

But top Syria ally Russia, which is itself supplying the Syrian regime with weapons, slammed the move as likely to harm peace efforts.

And Syrian opposition members and rebels said the decision was “too little, too late” and expressed anger over any additional delays.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog says more than 94,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the conflict.

Meanwhile, the U.S. on Tuesday said it supported the EU’s decision to ease the arms embargo on Syria.

“While it is ultimately an EU decision, we do support the easing of the EU arms embargo as a part of the international community’s efforts to demonstrate its full support for the Syrian opposition,’ State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

He said the action would give each EU member state flexibility to support the Syrian opposition as it sees fit.

While the United States has so far provided only non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition, Ventrell said “this allows others to continue to accelerate that assistance to the opposition.”

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