Germany and the Netherlands, however, are said to be reluctant to support the step because they fear it would lead to further bloodshed.
Amal Mudallali, a Syria scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said it's unlikely Assad will leave any time soon. She noted that Syrian forces have stepped up counterattacks against the rebels in recent days, and she predicted the fighting would have to dramatically shift against Assad for him to go.
"If the EU lifts the embargo, maybe this will change things on the ground, but I am not sure it will change the American position," Mudallali said. "But it will put pressure on the Americans because they don't want to feel they are behind on things. It will show people in the region that the Americans are not leading on this — that the EU is."
In an interview Thursday, the EU's top official for humanitarian aid said arming the rebels or otherwise giving them deadly aid could create a backlash by the Assad government and, in effect, worsen the situation for the Syrian people.
EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said she does not advocate a position on whether the international community should arm the rebels or not. She maintained efforts to promote diplomacy through dialogue have not yet been fully exhausted.
"Because the Syrian government, the Assad government, has very strong military and chemical weapons, we have to be fair and say there is a risk in Syria that an external use of force may trigger to the detriment of the Syrian people," Georgieva said. "It may get worse."
Kerry said that Assad, his inner circle and supporters in Iran and Russia have yet to be persuaded to enter negotiations with the opposition and allow for a political transition. He said he had not given up on persuading Moscow to reverse its support for Assad, and would be meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov next week in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO-Russia Council meeting.
"My hope is still that the Russians can be constructive," he said.
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