Gun control

A Syrian rebel takes up position in an abandoned building in Damascus.
A Syrian rebel takes up position in an abandoned building in Damascus.

BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers are discussing British and French calls for an easing of sanctions against Syria so weapons can be supplied to the rebels.

France and the UK argue that the move would increase pressure on Damascus for a political solution.

However, several EU states are totally opposed to ending the arms embargo, which expires on May 31.

Fierce clashes are reported in a Syrian border town and more allegations have emerged of chemical weapons being used.

The meeting in Brussels came as the US, France and Russia pushed for Syria’s opposition to join President Bashar al-Assad’s government at an international peace conference in Geneva next month.

Syria’s foreign minister confirmed on Sunday that the government would “in principle” attend the summit.

Members of the main opposition coalition are currently meeting in the Turkish city of Istanbul to decide whether to attend the conference.

They have been given an unofficial deadline of this evening, the BBC’s Jim Muir reports, before US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to have talks in Paris with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

‘Truly a nightmare’

Arriving for the EU talks in Brussels today, several foreign ministers and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said it was vital to give the planned Geneva talks a chance.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said first and foremost the EU had to “do everything to support as Europeans the American and Russian initiative”.

Austria, in common with the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden. opposes arming the rebels. Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said the EU should remain as “a peace community by not being involved in such a conflict”.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain fully backed the Geneva conference as “in the end there is only a political and diplomatically supported solution”. (BBC)

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