In the end, Austria agreed with the text which "took note" of the commitment of member states to consider at a national level sending arms to the Syrian opposition.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius left the talks earlier Monday to return to Paris to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over the issue.
The EU talks had been billed as a pivotal opportunity for the bloc to overcome differences about whether to ease sanctions against Syria to allow arms shipments to the rebels. France added urgency to the debate, with Fabius pointing to increasing signs that chemical weapons were being used in the conflict.
The EU nations have been steadfast opponents of Assad in the war and have steadily increased restrictive measures against his regime, including visa restrictions and economic sanctions. In February, the bloc amended the arms embargo to allow for non-lethal equipment and medicine to protect Syrian civilians. If not renewed, all those measures expire at the end of May.
Assad's government has agreed in principle to participate in peace talks in Geneva next month. The United States and Russia hope to bring together the Syrian government and opposition for direct talks, but the exact date, agenda and participants still remains unclear.
Hague said that Monday's outcome to allow for arms shipments to the rebels "will support political progress on Syria and our attempts to bring together a Geneva conference."
Washington has also been reluctant to provide rebels with more sophisticated weapons for fear they might end up in the hands of the radical Islamic factions, including the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, a group that has been the most effective fighting force on the opposition side.
Several EU ministers said arming the opposition would create a more level playing field that could force Assad into a negotiated settlement.