Syria’s main opposition bloc has asked the European Union to quickly send sophisticated weapons to rebels fighting against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
In a statement, the Syrian National Council welcomed the EU’s decision this week not to renew its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels, paving the way for individual EU member states to send weapons to Assad’s opponents.
The council, however, urged the EU to "solidify" its words by action.
It called on the EU to supply the Free Syrian Army with “specialized weaponry to repel fierce attacks waged against unarmed civilians” by the regime forces.
The United States has welcomed the EU move but indicated the U.S. has no plans of its own to arm the opposition.
White House spokesman Jay Carney also condemned Russian arms transfers to the Syrian government, saying such sales don’t move the warring parties closer to a political solution.
Russia earlier denounced the EU move as illegitimate, saying it undermines efforts to convene an international peace conference cosponsored by the United States and Russia.
Moscow also defended its decision to deliver S-300 antiaircraft missiles to the Syrian government, saying they would help deter any foreign military intervention.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov harshly criticized a U.S.-backed draft resolution condemning the Syrian government ahead of a May 29 debate at the UN Human Rights Council.
The United Nations’ top human rights body is debating the draft resolution condemning the Syrian regime's use of Lebanese Hizballah fighters in the war against rebel forces.
The draft, which was put forward by the United States, Turkey, and Qatar, warns that the presence of foreign combatants in Syria "poses a serious threat to regional stability.”
Lavrov singled out the United States in his criticism, saying Washington was "actively promoting this extremely unwholesome initiative."
He warned the draft resolution would undermine his joint efforts with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to convene an international peace conference on Syria.
The U.S. envoy to the council, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, said: "We don't see this as...undermining in any way."
Addressing the council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged global powers not to supply Syria with weapons.
She also called on the international community to press both sides in its civil war to find a political solution to prevent more massacres and threats to regional stability.
"The increasing number of foreign fighters crossing Syria's borders to support one side or the other is further fueling the sectarian violence, and the situation is beginning to show worrying signs of destabilizing the region as a whole," Pillay said.
Based on reporting by AFP, dpa, Interfax, and Reuters