Sunday

21st Apr 2019

UK makes progress in bid to blacklist Hezbollah

  • Hezbollah poster in eastern Lebanon (Photo: aldask)

New information from Britain on alleged terrorist activity by Hezbollah is likely to gain Austria's support to blacklist the Lebanese group.

Britain earlier this year proposed adding Hezbollah's military wing to the EU terrorist register.

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France, Germany and the Netherlands support the move.

But several countries, including Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech republic, Ireland, Malta, Poland and Slovakia, opposed it at a meeting of EU counter-terrorism specialists in June.

A diplomatic source told EUobserver that London, over the past two weeks, circulated fresh evidence which persuaded Vienna to switch sides.

He declined to give details of the new information, citing confidentiality rules.

But he said: "At the end of the day, I think they [the Austrians] will have a deal with the Brits."

The UK still has to convince other sceptics.

A Czech diplomat told EUobserver on Thursday (4 July) that Prague remains opposed because it is impossible, in practical terms, to separate the military and political branches of the group.

If Hezbollah goes on the EU register, it could restrict EU envoys from talking to Hezbollah politicians in the Lebanese government, including on EU aid projects in Hezbollah-run ministries.

Slovakia also remains opposed.

Bratislava believes that former EU listings, for instance of Palestinian group Hamas, have done nothing to advance EU policy in the region.

It is also put off because France, Germany and the UK reportedly keep clandestine contacts with "terrorist" entities, making a mockery of the EU list.

The new momentum in the talks in any case prompted the UK, on Thursday, to ask the European External Action Service (EEAS) to put Hezbollah on the agenda of a foreign ministers' meeting on 22 July.

The EEAS did not immediately say Yes.

But France, Germany and the UK are too big to ignore on foreign policy.

"It’s now the right time for the listing of Hezbollah’s military wing to be discussed at a political level in the EU," another EU diplomat told this website.

"The evidence that Hezbollah’s military wing is a terrorist organisation, and that it committed terrorism on EU soil, is compelling," the source added.

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