The diplomatic moves, accompanied by an unannounced visit by Sen. John McCain to rebel forces in Syria, aim to put more pressure on Assad to seek a negotiated settlement to end Syria's 2-year-old civil war.
The prospect of EU nations being able to send weapons to the rebels while maintaining stiff economic sanctions against Assad's regime also sends a message to Russia. Moscow has unabashedly sent weapons to Assad's regime -- and EU arms deliveries could partially re-balance the firepower in the war.
Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, lashed out at the move, saying it undermines the efforts of both Russia and the U.S to mediate peace talks.
He called the decision "a manifestation of double standards."
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