Eamon Gilmore says more arms would mean more casualties in Syria

Friday 22 March 2013 22.58
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Eamon Gilmore said further militarisation was not the way forward
Eamon Gilmore said further militarisation was not the way forward
EU foreign ministers are seeking a way forward for Syria
EU foreign ministers are seeking a way forward for Syria

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has said he is opposed to the proposal by Britain and France to lift the arms embargo on Syria to allow rebels access to weapons.

Mr Gilmore said further militarisation in the conflict was not the way to go.

Speaking to RTÉ's SIX One News from Dublin Castle, where EU foreign ministers were meeting today, Mr Gilmore said ministers had reaffirmed a commitment to getting a political solution to the crisis.

He said the current sanctions regime would run until 1 June.

Between now and then, he said there would be further discussions by the ministers in relation to how those sanctions are to be applied and to consider all options.

Two years into Syria's conflict, the European Union remains divided on how it should respond.

France and the UK want the EU to lift an arms embargo to allow weapons to be supplied to rebels trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Other European governments disagree, because they fear an arms race that would lead to greater instability.

British Foreign Minister William Hague has acknowledged there is a big variety of views among EU foreign ministers about whether or not to lift the embargo.

Mr Hague made his comments at the end of today's meeting.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said he was cautious about lifting the embargo.

He said while he was open to compromise, he was against proliferation and against the use of weapons by extremists.

Arriving for the meeting, the Austrian foreign minister said he was not in favour of lifting the embargo.

Michael Spindelegger said more weapons in Syria would not bring about peace, but an escalation in violence.

The meeting comes as the Syrian president vowed to rid the country of Muslim extremists, whom he blamed for a suicide bombing that killed 42 people yesterday.

The explosion ripped through a mosque in the heart of Damascus in what was the first time a suicide bomber struck inside a mosque.

Top Sunni preacher Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Buti, who was a staunch supporter of Mr Assad, was among the dead.

In the statement carried by Syria's state news agency, Mr Assad said Mr Buti represented true Islam in facing "the forces of darkness and extremist" ideology.

He said his forces would "wipe out" and "clean our country" of the attackers.