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EU 'big three' turn on Hezbollah - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Members of Lebanon's of Hezbollah Shiite Muslim movement carry the coffin of a comrade in the village of Haret Al-Fikani, in the Beka'a valley, on May 23, 2013 (AFP PHOTO/STR)

Members of Lebanon’s of Hezbollah Shi’ite Muslim movement carry the coffin of a comrade in the village of Haret Al-Fikani, in the Beka’a valley, on May 23, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/STR)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—France, Germany and the UK are to back attempts to have Hezbollah’s military wing declared a terrorist organization by the European Union.

French and German officials signaled on Wednesday that they would support the move, following an appeal from the UK, reversing the previous position of both governments on the issue.

“We are calling for Europe to respond collectively and robustly following the atrocious terrorist attack at Burgas airport…. We firmly believe that an appropriate EU response would be to designate Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization,” a spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office said on Tuesday.

A bomb attack at Burgas in Bulgaria in July 2012 killed 5 Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver, as well as one of the men suspected of carrying out the attack. Bulgarian officials blamed Hezbollah for being behind the attack, an allegation the organization denies.

British authorities also cited the recent conviction of a Lebanese–Swedish man in Cyprus on charges of preparing for a terrorist attack on the island on behalf of Hezbollah.

Speaking on Wednesday, German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle said that he backed the designation for “at least the military wing” of Hezbollah.

His French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, told AFP that France concurred with this decision, while at a Friends of Syria meeting in Jordan.

He said: “Given the decisions taken by Hezbollah and the fact that it has fought very hard against the Syrian population, I confirm that France will propose to inscribe the military wing of Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations”.

France had previously opposed such a move for fear of destabilizing Lebanon, where Hezbollah is a major political force, and out of fears for the safety of French troops serving as UN peacekeepers in the country.

The decision will be considered by the EU’s official working group on terrorist organizations in early June, and then at a meeting of EU member-state foreign ministers later in the month.

If it succeeds, EU member-states will be required to sever all ties with the Lebanese organization’s military wing, and prevent fundraising on its behalf in their territory.

However, the measure faces some serious obstacles. Aside from the fact that it will require the unanimous assent of all 27 member-states in order to be adopted, experts say it is not clear that Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’ can be meaningfully distinguished from its political operations in Lebanon, where it is a political party with ministers in government.

“I don’t know if that makes any sense or you really can say there’s a political wing and a terrorist wing,” Sylke Tempel, editor-in-chief of Internationale Politik, the journal published by the German Council on Foreign Relations, told the New York Times. “They belong together like my left leg and my right leg.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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