Britain to Try to Blacklist Hizbullah Again

Britain's push to blacklist Hizbullah may have gained support because of the group's involvement in Syria, say diplomats.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah
Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah
AFP photo

Britain has asked European Union foreign ministers to once again discuss putting Hizbullah’s so-called “military wing” on the EU terror list, diplomats said on Friday.

Several weeks ago, a British drive to reach a unanimous decision to blacklist Hizbullah failed, when the EU expressed fear that such a move would lead to instability in Lebanon and the Middle East.

Austria and the Czech Republic opposed the move to add Hizbullah to the EU terrorist list, which includes several groups such as Hamas and Colombia's FARC guerrillas, who are subject to an asset freeze.

Diplomats who spoke to Reuters on Friday said that Britain, backed by France, Germany and the Netherlands, has now asked for the issue to be put on the agenda of the next meeting of foreign ministers on July 22, believing it needs to be debated at a more senior, “political” level to achieve a breakthrough.

The agenda for the meeting has not yet been finalized, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

Concerns over Hizbullah began in Europe since an attack last year on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria which Sofia blamed on the group. In March, a Cyprus court sentenced a Hizbullah member to four years behind bars for planning attacks there.

The involvement of Hizbullah in the Syrian conflict raised the EU’s concerns after terrorists belonging to the Shiite group were found to be engaging in battles between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and the country’s opposition.

However, EU counter-terror specialists met on the issue but failed to reach unanimity on blacklisting the group after objections from several countries.

The British proposal has gained urgency - and some support - in Europe in recent weeks because of Iranian-backed Hizbullah deeper involvement in the Syrian civil war.

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said Britain believed the evidence that the military wing of Hizbullah was a terrorist organization was “compelling” and strong enough to warrant adding it to the blacklist.

MK Avigdor Lieberman (Likud-Yisrael Beytenu) recently said that the EU is irrelevant when it comes to dealing with the Middle East because of its failure to blacklist Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.

Lieberman sent a harshly worded letter to Catherine Ashton, in which he protested the fact that there was no progress during discussions last week to blacklist Hizbullah.

“The exclusion of an organization, which incites to and is actively involved in murder and hatred, on the list of terrorist organizations is hypocrisy which cries out to the heavens. It begs the question as to what other requirements, beyond the facts that are well known, are necessary for Hizbullah’s inclusion,” Lieberman wrote Ashton.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who met Ashton in Israel two weeks ago, said, "I hope that those in Europe who refuse to designate Hizbullah as a terrorist organization will change their mind, and I hope there will be a European consensus on this.”

"I mean, it’s hard to see how you cannot have a consensus on Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. If Hizbullah isn’t a terrorist organization, I don’t what is a terrorist organization," he said pointedly.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)