Syria arms embargo must not be lifted

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Syria crisis - Syrian family

We are extremely concerned that if the EU fails to extend the arms embargo on Syria next week, the humanitarian situation in the country could become even worse.

European Union Foreign Ministers will decide on Monday whether or not to extend the embargo. If it is lifted, the UK and other Member States will have the option to send weapons to Syrian opposition groups. But CAFOD warns that this could have a devastating effect, stoking up the conflict still further and making an appalling humanitarian situation even worse.

In What Now for Syrian Refugees? a joint CAFOD and World Vision briefing paper presented to MPs, CAFOD said: “The EU export ban on arms and equipment which might be used for internal repression in Syria should remain in force and no parties to the conflict should be supplied with weapons: the only lasting solution to this conflict will be through dialogue.”

Mike Noyes, CAFOD’s Head of Humanitarian Programmes, adds: “There are no easy solutions to the catastrophic situation in Syria, and some European governments may be tempted to arm the opposition so that they are at least seen to be doing something. But none of the aid workers we work with on the ground in Syria or in neighbouring countries think that sending more arms can make the situation any better. In fact, it could be disastrous. The UK government should not arm opposition groups, but should instead redouble its efforts to push for a political solution.”

CAFOD is one of a handful of UK aid agencies able to operate inside Syria: the extensive community networks of the Church, even as a minority faith, mean that it is well placed to provide aid in some of the worst hit and most inaccessible parts of the country. For more than a year, CAFOD has worked with Church partners to provide food, shelter and medical supplies to the most vulnerable on both sides of the conflict, regardless of religious or political persuasion.

6.8 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance within Syria, while a further 1.5 million Syrians are taking refuge in neighbouring countries. More than 80,000 people have been killed since the conflict began, and more than half of all homes within Syria have been destroyed or damaged. The Syria emergency is now the largest international humanitarian aid response of the 21st century.

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