European Union to blacklist Hizbullah’s military wing
Gilmore welcomes moves amid fears for Irish troops if full clampdown agreed
Lebanon’s Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses supporters via a video conference during iftar, the breaking of fast meal, during the Islamic month of Ramadan in Beirut’s southern suburbs last week. Photograph: Sharif Karim/Reuters
In an unprecedented move, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday agreed to add Hizbullah to its list of terrorist organisations, a decision that was immediately welcomed by Israel.
The move precludes EU states from proffering financial support to the organisation while any assets held by the group’s armed wing in the European Union will be frozen.
However, foreign ministers stopped short of outlawing the organisation completely, pledging to continue dialogue with all the political parties in the Lebanon.
By leaving the door open for engagement with Hizbullah’s political wing, ministers allayed the concerns of some member states, including Ireland, that a total clampdown could spur political instability within the Lebanon, where Hizbullah is a part of the current government.
Ireland was particularly forceful in its opposition to a full clampdown, fearful that it could have implications for Irish troops stationed in south Lebanon. Israel said it did not go far enough.
Speaking after yesterday’s meeting in Brussels, Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said he was satisfied with the outcome, and welcomed the fact that a distinction had been made between the military and political side of Hizbullah.
He also welcomed the commitment to maintain contact with the Lebanese government, noting that there would be no interference with EU funding into Lebanon.
Britain and the Netherlands have been leading calls for European action on Hizbullah, as evidence mounts of the group’s involvement in the Syrian civil war on the side of president Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Thousands of Hizbullah fighters are active in the Syrian conflict, and have emerged as a significant military force in the war.
Hizbullah has also been linked to a number of terrorist activities within Europe, including a bomb attack against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last year which left six people dead. The group denies any involvement.
The recently elected socialist-led government in Bulgaria has also distanced itself from claims by the previous administration that Hizbullah was involved.
“It is important that the [EU] decision be based not only on the bombing because I think the evidence we have is not explicit,” the Bulgarian foreign minister Kristian Vigenin said.
Meanwhile, Israel praised the EU decision to include the military wing of Hizbullah on its terrorism list.
“In recent years, Israel has invested great efforts to explain to all EU countries that Hizbullah is a terrorist arm of the Iranian regime and perpetrates attacks around the worlxxd,” said prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “At the same time thousands of this terrorist organisation’s operatives are daily perpetrating war crimes in Syria and participating in the slaughter being carried out there, alongside Assad’s forces.”
However, he said the EU decision did not go far enough.
“As far as Israel is concerned Hizbullah is one organisation, the arms of which is indistinguishable,” he said.
Hizbullah had already been blacklisted by the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK and the Netherlands, but the European Union had so far resisted pressure to clamp down on the group fearing repercussions within the Lebanon.
A number of NGO’s questioned how the EU would distinguish between Hizbullah’s political and military wing.
They argue that the decision to list the group as a terrorist organisation could limit the EU’s efficacy in the Lebanon.