“The EU struggles for unity on Syrian arms embargo,” notes the European Voice. The weekly explains that “an Anglo-French bid to end the European Union's ban on the sale of arms to rebel forces in Syria appears doomed to failure,” because “opposition to ending the ban on arms sales has, if anything, hardened.”

In February, the UK and France succeeded in persuading other member states to ease the arms embargo and back a move allowing the supply of non-lethal military items, such as communications and logistics equipment, to rebel forces battling Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Now, following talks between French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron on May 22, even Paris and London seem to have cooled on the idea, principally due to fears weapons could fall into Islamists’ hands. The newspaper continues –

There are significant divisions among member states over Syria, principally on three issues. Austria has been particularly vocal in opposing the easing of arms restrictions on the rebels, questioning the need and the impact. Sweden has been the most reluctant to accept the longer-term trend, towards tougher sanctions against the regime of Assad, arguing that that would limit the space for a political solution. In addition, in recent months, the Czech Republic has been vocal in questioning the quality of the control over rebel forces exercised by the rebels' major political body, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

The embargo will be debated at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on May 27 ahead of a June 1 deadline for its renewal or cancellation. Meanwhile a new US and Russian-backed Syrian peace conference has been arranged for early June in Geneva, which could see the SNC attend talks with members of the Syrian government.