Syria Threatens Chemical Weapons Against Foreign 'Aggression'
Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said that his country would use chemical weapons in case of 'external aggression' against Syria, according to an article in Sana News Agency. Chemical weapons are monitored and guarded by the Syrian Army, and would not be used during the 'internal crisis', he said.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that Israel will 'not restrain itself'' and will respond 'very aggressively' to any chemical weapon transfer from Syria.
There are 26 million people in Syria.
Meanwhile, the EU has decided to tighten sanctions on the Syrian government amid fears that it will use chemical weapons on the population. EU countries will be obliged to inspect vessels and aircraft heading to Syria if they suspect the cargo contains arms or equipment for 'internal repression', according to a statement after today's EU Foreign Affairs Council.
"This obligation applies in member states' seaports and airports as well as in their territorial sea, in accordance with international law. Items that may not be exported to Syria under EU law must be seized. In addition, aircraft and vessels heading to Syria will have to provide additional pre-arrival and pre-departure information on their cargo," said EU foreign ministers.
Cyprus is right in the middle of a major shipping line as one of the closest ports in the Eastern Mediterranean to Syria. Earlier this year, the government came under fire for not confiscating arms being shipped to Syria, even though it stopped the vessel carrying them, the MV Chariot. Since the deadly explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base - in which 98 containers of confiscated arms blew up - the government has treated vessels suspected of smuggling arms like plague ships.
Last week, a frustrated William Hague said the UK and the rest of the international community would do more outside the UN Security Council after a Chapter 7 resolution calling for Bashar al Assad to step down failed to pass due to Russian and Chinese opposition.
The UK will give practical support to the Syrian opposition - but not lethal support, said Hague. However, he did not rule out arming the rebels in the future. According to information, the Syrian opposition is already receiving arms, likely from Saudi Arabia. The UK favours an arms embargo on every side in Syria, but arms trading is happening anyway, said Hague.
"We will work with now more than 100 nations in the Friends of Syria to intensify the pressure on the Assad regime, to isolate them more completely from the rest of the world," he said.
In the last week, three Syrian ministers have been killed in a suicide bombing and there is all-out war in Damascus and other parts of the country. Rebel fighters say they have taken strategic towns along the Turkey-Syria border.
Turkey and Russia are closely shadowing the conflict, Turkey has armed troops built up along its border with Syria after one of its jets was shot down over the country. And Russia has just sent six warships to its port in Tartus, two of them via Cyprus' Limassol Port. An estimated 17,000 people - mostly civilians - have died in the civil war between Assad's security forces and opposition groups.
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