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EU's Ashton urges caution on lifting Syria arms embargo


11:56, March 17, 2013

BRUSSELS, March 16 (Xinhua) -- The European Union's (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Saturday urged caution over the prospect of ending the bloc's arms embargo against Syria in order to supply the opposition with weapons.

"Any decision to lift an arms embargo, you need to consider the implications of that," Ashton said at the Brussels Forum organized by the think tank German Marshall Fund of the United States.

"In the end you always need a political process, whatever else you might do. Before we make that decision we need to work through, very carefully, to get the best understanding that we can on the implications," she said.

The EU has imposed an arms embargo on Syria since May, 2011, which was extended on February 28 for another three months to June 1 by EU foreign ministers.

France and Britain are pushing their EU partners to lift an arms embargo on Syria in order to supply the opposition with weapons. However, other EU member states have little appetite to drop the embargo, expressing concerns that more weapons will only fuel conflicts in Syria.

"Would putting more weapons into the field make it more or less likely that others would do the same? What would be the response of Assad, based on what we know about his response so far? Would it stop people being killed or would it kill people faster?" Ashton asked.

In addition, Ashton said the bloc was planning for a post-Assad Syria, but "it is essentially for the Syrian people to do that."

"It's about helping them work out what this roadmap is going to be, how do you get from here through a transition, which will be inevitably messy, into a process that can let people decide for themselves what they want to see," she said.

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