PARIS, March 14 (UPI) -- There are few options apart from lifting the arms embargo on Syria to benefit opponents of the Syrian regime, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
Civil war in Syria entered its third year this month. The United Nations estimates that at least 1 million Syrians have been displaced and more than 70,000 people have died as a result of fighting that grew out of anti-government protests.
International efforts to back Syrian opposition groups have failed to draw political reform. Attempts to pass resolutions at the U.N. Security Council have been met with criticism from Russia, which claims drafts lack balance.
Fabius writes in Thursday's edition of French daily newspaper Liberation that an arms embargo placed on Syria is "backfiring."
"We must persuade our partners, particularly in Europe, that we now have no other option than to lift the arms embargo, to the benefit of the (opposition Syrian National) Coalition," he writes.
The European Union in February called on Damascus to take advantage of the opportunity presented by Syrian opposition groups for a political dialogue. The European Union said, however, it was debating an arms embargo as hopes for diplomacy diminished.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague last week said the United Kingdom was working to help anti-government forces protect themselves from the Syrian military. Non-lethal assistance to rebel forces includes armored vehicles and body armor.
"There is a growing international consensus recognizing our responsibility to protect civilians," writes Fabius. "We must go further and enable the Syrian people to defend themselves against this bloody regime."