Attempts to reach a European Union agreement on supplying arms to the Syrian opposition collapsed on Monday (May 27), freeing Britain and France to go it alone in arming the rebels starting in August if they decide to do so.

The refusal of London and Paris to go along with the arms embargo could have caused the collapse of all EU sanctions against Syria, embarrassing the EU and handing a victory to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. EU ministers managed to avert that by agreeing to reinstate all of the restrictions except for the arms embargo on the rebels.

"The European Union has agreed to bring to an end the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition and to maintain other sanctions on Syria, all the other existing sanctions on the Syrian regime, this is the outcome that the United Kingdom wanted. It has been difficult for many nations, that is why we had such long discussions today, over the last 12, 13 hours or so. But, I think it is the right decision," said British Foreign Secretary, William Hague.

"We have agreed as member states to make clear commitments about the restrictions on any arms that we would supply on common rules on the basis of common rules, and I think the whole of the European Union, is very strongly committed to a political settlement in Syria. So, yes, of course on such a difficult foreign policy issue, there are disagreements, and yes we have had some disagreements today, but we have resolved those disagreements, I think on the right basis for the future," he added.