Put Hezbollah on EU terror list, Israeli President says
By Benjamin Fox
Israeli President Shimon Peres has urged the EU to put Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organisations, claiming that failure to do so would be an indication that the EU was prepared to tolerate its actions.
Speaking in Brussels on Thursday (7 March) after holding discussions with EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, Peres said that "if you do not take measures against Hezbollah, then they may think that they are permitted."
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"I know this is not the EU's intention," he added.
Barroso said the listing proposal, which would have to be agreed by EU governments rather than the EU executive, "requires very detailed thought."
Hezbollah's status has long been a divisive issue among European capitals, with the UK and the Netherlands the only countries to have blacklisted the organisation or parts of it.
Blacklisting Hezbollah could allow international authorities to freeze its assets and sources of financial backing.
However, pressure has been ramped up after the Bulgarian government blamed Hezbollah for attacks carried out last July that left five Israeli tourists dead.
Barroso said that the EU "condemned" the attacks in "the strongest possible terms."
Meanwhile, another alleged Hezbollah affiliate, Hossam Taleb Yaccoub, appeared before a Cypriot court on Thursday on charges of scouting Jewish targets in Europe.
Peres also called on the EU to consider the expansion of its sanctions regime against Iran.
He commented that Iran was "a danger not just to Israel but to the rest of the world", describing it as the "the centre of international terror."
President Barroso reiterated the bloc's commitment to a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict.
Peres insisted that Israel was also supportive of a two-state settlement, commenting that "there are maybe some difference between us on tactics but not on the objectives."
"In spite of scepticism and pessimism it can be done," he said.
Peres will travel to the European Parliament in Strasbourg next week after a series of meetings with EU leaders and Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels.
On Wednesday (6 March), EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy chided the Israeli President over its expansion of illegal settlements in the occupied territories, saying that the settlements were a roadblock to peace talks.
There could be "no sustainable peace unless Palestine's desire for an independent state and Israel's need for security are fulfilled," said Van Rompuy, adding that he had "reminded Peres that the EU was against Israel's illegal residential areas."
The EU is Israel's largest single trading partner with trade worth around €30 billion per year.
Although an association agreement between the two has been in place since 2000, the EU has come under rising pressure to draft a code on the retail labelling of all products from the occupied territories.
EU foreign affairs chief Cathy Ashton demanded product labelling in a letter circulated to member state capitals last week.