Tuesday

17th Sep 2019

EU rebuffs US call to put Hezbollah on terror list

The EU will not for the time being put the Islamist Hezbollah movement on its blacklist of terrorist organisations but the discussion could re-emerge in the future, the Finnish EU presidency has said.

Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja declared after crisis talks with EU counterparts on Tuesday (1 August) "Given the sensitive situation where we are, I don't think this is something we will be acting on now."

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Mr Tuomioja's remarks came as a response to a letter signed by 213 members of the US Congress, sent to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, demanding that the EU follows the US in branding Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

"On July 19th, we were dismayed to hear your assertion that the EU lacked 'sufficient data' to add Hezbollah to its terrorist list," the congressmen wrote.

"In past years, Hezbollah has increasingly supported groups already designated by the EU as terrorist organizations, including the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)."

But despite the bloc's negative response to Washington, the Finnish minister indicated that the EU could take up the discussion in the near future, when the international community manages to reach a peace deal between Israel and Hezbollah.

"This could happen later on when we will see the outcome of a future political agreement," the Finnish minister said.

Risk of alienating Hezbollah

But he also added that "everybody in Lebanon should be a party" to a peace deal, which appeared to point to the risk of alienating Hezbollah by branding it a terrorist organisation - just when co-operation from the movement is necessary to maintain a lasting peace.

On top of this, a peace deal under the UN umbrella is likely to be secured by a substantial number of EU states' troops on the ground.

Sweden, Finland and Denmark recently felt the effect of the terrorist list on international peacekeeping, when they were told to withdraw their peace monitors from Sri Lanka after the EU put the rebel Tamil Tigers on the blacklist in May.

Meanwhile the presence of the Palestinian Hamas movement on the EU's terror list has severely constrained the bloc's possibilities in dealing with the group, which won the Palestinian elections last January.

The EU, the largest aid donor to the Palestinians, had to design a cumbersome financial mechanism circumventing the current Hamas-led government, as EU rules prohibit the financing of terrorist organisations.

Like Hamas, Hezbollah is both a military organisation and a political party. It has two cabinet ministers in the Lebanese government.

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