Russia says end of EU arms ban is blow to Syria peace

MOSCOW Tue May 28, 2013 4:45am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said on Tuesday the European Union's failure to renew an arms embargo on Syria would undermine the chances for peace talks that Moscow and Washington are trying to organize.

"This does direct damage to the prospects for convening the international conference," Russian news agency Itar-Tass quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying of the EU move, which will allow EU nations to supply arms to Syrian rebels.

EU governments failed to bridge their differences on Monday, but decided to allow a ban on arming the opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government to expire.

Britain and France, which opposed renewing the embargo, have made clear they will not deliver arms "at this stage", but EU officials said the commitment effectively expires on August 1.

Russia and the United States announced on May 7 that they would try to bring Assad's government and its opponents to a conference to seek an end to the 26-month-old conflict in which more than 80,000 people have been killed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met again in Paris late on Monday to discuss the proposed conference but did not announce any specific plans.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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