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EU foreign ministers divided over giving arms to Syrian rebels
EU foreign ministers have stalled on trying to find a solution to protect civilians caught in the crossfire of Syria's civil war. Meanwhile, separate reports confirm their worst fears: extremism is on the rise in Syria.
EU foreign leaders ended a meeting in Brussels on Monday divided over how to help end the Syrian civil war which is fast approaching its two-year anniversary. While the EU has embargoed selling weapons to both the Syrian opposition and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government, it did recently ease restrictions on non-lethal aid, including equipment.
UN-special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, who headed Monday's meeting, stressed the importance of implementing a political solution.
The military solution is out of the question," Brahimi told reporters after the meeting.
"[EU foreign ministers] it is one of the most dangerous crises in the world today," he said. "As I said before, it is either peaceful, consensual, political solution, or the situation will be similar to or even worse than Somalia."
The Euro-bloc has been cautious in intervening in the civil war, but as the numbers of deaths have topped 70,000 and the number of refugees has reached 1 million, some leaders have become restless.
"There is a lack of balance between the Assad regime, which has weapons coming from Iran and Russia - powerful weapons - and the rebel National Coalition, which doesn't have the same weapons," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, adding that "we cannot accept such an unbalanced state, which leads to the slaughter of the population."
Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the EU should consider measures to rebuild areas under opposition control, but that lifting the arms embargo wasn't the answer.
"I don't think the bloodshed in Syria will decrease should we engage in an arms race," Westerwelle said.
Al Qaeda claims mass killing in Iraq ambush
On Monday, Iraq's al Qaeda branch claimed responsibility for an ambush last week that left nearly 50 Syrian government troops dead, partially confirming this suspicion.
The Syrian military unit had been granted refuge in northern Iraq amid violent clashes with Syrian opposition forces in the desert region. Al Qaeda militants bombed the military escort vehicles transporting the Syrian troops back to their home country and then launched a two-sided attack, also killing several Iraqis in the process.
The armed conflict has destroyed communities across Syria, leaving the potential for political chaos if the fighting were to end without a well-planned strategy to return peace to the population. Over 2 million have fled their homes, according to the United Nations. An additional 1 million have sought refuge in neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, with thousands streaming over the borders daily.
While reports of extremism have justified the caution of Western leaders who want to force President al-Assad to relinquish power, the list of human rights violations by his forces increased as well on Monday.
The Commission of Inquiry on Syria relayed to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday the findings of an independent investigation on massacres in Syria in recent months.
"Popular committees" - armed groups reportedly formed to protect neighborhoods for the government - have carried out mass killings. The report did not give an estimate of how many such committees existed, nor where the mass killings had occurred.
"In a disturbing and dangerous trend, mass killings allegedly perpetrated by Popular Committees have at times taken on sectarian overtones," the 10-page UN report said. "Some appear to have been trained and armed by the government."
kms/hc (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)
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