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Russian Foreign Minister: Arming Syrian Rebels 'Illegal' - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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UK Foreign Secretary William Hague meeting the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in London today. Source: FCO

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague meeting the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in London today. Source: FCO

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Wednesday that action to arm the Syrian opposition would be illegal.

The comments followed a meeting in London between the ministers of defense and foreign affairs of both Britain and Russia. The UK has recently hinted that it is considering supplying arms to the rebels battling to overthrow the government of Bashar Al-Assad, even if the rest of the EU maintains its arms embargo.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference via a translator after the meeting, Russian foreign minister Lavrov said: “In our point of view, it [supplying arms] is a violation in international law” given that the rebels were a non-governmental group.

He also questioned how the arms could be prevented from falling into the hands of extremists, pointing to the existence of the Jabhat Al-Nusra group in Syria, which is designated as a terrorist group by the US.

The meeting was expected to have an inconclusive outcome, given the entrenched positions of both sides.

Although both the British and the Russian governments have publicly stated that they favor a negotiated, political solution to the crisis in Syria, both have pursued opposing policies.

While Russia has extended some diplomatic support to the government of Bashar Al-Assad and has tended to oppose any international intervention in the conflict, the UK has offered ‘non-lethal’ assistance to the Syrian rebels, and has hinted that it is considering going further by offering arms and training.

However, both governments have been united in their inability to influence events in Syria, and the lack of options available to them outside the rarefied world of international diplomacy.

The former British ambassador to Russia, Sir Roderic Braithwaite, told the BBC in the run up the meeting: “Neither the Russians, nor we, know what to do about Syria. All of us would prefer it to be stable, all of us would prefer the bloodshed to stop, but I don’t think either of us know how to achieve that.”