Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Arming Syrian rebels 'not answer'

Smoke rises from shelling in a suburb of Damascus, earlier this week (AP /Shaam News Network)

The United Nations peace envoy to Syria has said he can see no swift end to the brutal civil war and urged the international community to increase diplomatic pressure on the regime.

"I'm afraid I do not expect miracles any time soon," Lakhdar Brahimi told Channel 4 News.

But he insisted arming the rebels - a move being contemplated by Britain and France - is not the solution.

Mr Brahimi said the situation on the ground is "extremely bad and getting worse all the time", and he had had no contact with Syrian president Bashar Assad since the end of December.

"I haven't seen and I do not see any improvement," he said. "Each one of them, I think, still believes that military victory is possible for their side. And therefore, the intensity of the fighting is increasing and expanding.

"I consider it a given the Syrian parties at present are not capable of solving the problem themselves.

"My hope, and also my polite criticism, is really to the international community - to the Security Council members, in particular to China and to Russia and the United States.

"I think they should be talking to one another with much, much more urgency and perhaps taking some decisions going to the Security Council and speaking to the parties and to the region in much more forceful terms than they have until now."

London and Paris are facing stiff resistance within the EU to calls for an arms embargo to be lifted to allow weapons to be sent to opposition forces - a move approved in recent days by the Arab League.

Mr Brahimi said that was "not the way" to end the conflict. "Pouring more arms to the opposition would bring more arms to the government and that will not solve the problem," he said.

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