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Weapons divide: Arms supply issue splits Friends of Syria

Published time: February 24, 2012 19:57
Edited time: February 25, 2012 12:34
Friends of Syria Conference in Tunis, on February 24, 2012 (AFP Photo / Pool / Jason Reed)

Friends of Syria Conference in Tunis, on February 24, 2012 (AFP Photo / Pool / Jason Reed)

The opposition National Syrian Council has called on the Friends of Syria to provide the rebels with arms. “Excellent idea,” said the Saudi foreign minister, while the US is calling for an end to “supplying weapons to kill civilians."

­Therefore, if everyone gathered in Tunisia for the Syria conference gets their way, the Syrian rebels will be equipped to fight, while President Assad’s forces will not.

The Friends of Syria should not constrain individual countries from aiding the Syrian opposition by means of military advisors, training and the provision of arms to defend themselves," said a member of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council to the outright approval of the Saudi delegation.

The Saudi stance may well set them at loggerheads with Turkey, who have actually called for an arms embargo to be imposed on the troubled country.

Such a ban would choke off any official arms supplies to Syria. But would an embargo affect deals done under the table?

A Friday report by Reuters says the West has been turning a blind eye to weapons purchases made by the Syrian rebels, though international arms contracts should be sanctioned by governments.

"We are bringing in defensive and offensive weapons. It is coming from everywhere, including Western countries and it is not difficult to get anything through the borders," a source in the Syrian opposition told the news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There is not a decision by any country to arm the rebels, but countries are allowing Syrians to buy weapons and send them into the country," he added without elaborating on the exact suppliers.

Now the Syrian opposition is trying to find ways to deliver anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to the Free Syrian Army, an opposition group fighting pro-Assad forces inside the country.

Officially supplying the Syrian rebels with arms is a hot issue among Western and Arab countries. The step might prove to be fatal, as every nation would start militarizing its own favorite in the Syrian race.

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