Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the decision by the European Union to declare the military branch of Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The former senator said, “As Hezbollah has deepened its support for the brutal Assad regime and worked to expand its global reach through increased involvement in international criminal schemes and terrorist plots around the world, a growing number of governments are recognizing Hezbollah as the dangerous and destabilizing terrorist organization that it is.”
For its part, Hezbollah accused the EU of knuckling under to Israeli pressures. Britain and The Netherlands had been especially active in pushing for the ban, arguing that Hezbollah was indeed responsible for significant acts of terrorism. Until the July 22 decision, the EU had resisted pressure from the United States and Israel to blacklist the terrorist group, having argued that this would cause instability in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is part of the government, while adding further tensions in the Middle East.
The foreign ministers of the various EU members agreed to list the armed Hezbollah militants as terrorists and are holding it responsible for attacks in Europe, including a bus bombing in Bulgaria last year in which five Israelis were killed. The blacklisting of Hezbollah required agreement on the part of all 28 EU member states. The move now makes it illegal for sympathizers of Hezbollah in Europe to fund the group, while it also allows the EU to freeze its assets there. It also enacts visa bans on certain individuals who are considered dangerous.
The EU came to the decision on July 22 in a meeting of the top diplomats in Brussels. Wavering members which had caviled at the possibility of a blacklisting of Hezbollah as a whole were persuaded after a distinction was made between the supposed political and military branches of the group. The US, for its part, has long considered Hezbollah a terrorist group.
Momentum had been building for a number of months to proscribe Hezbollah, following the July 2012 suicide bombing at Bulgaria’s seaside resort city, Burgas. However, Hezbollah has denied responsibility for the Bulgarian bus bombing, as well as other attacks. Of late, Hezbollah has stepped up its involvement in the Syrian conflict. Hezbollah combatants are supporting the embattled President Bashar al-Assad in his struggle to destroy the armed rebels arrayed against his regime. Hezbollah is supported by Iran.
Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said the decision was "hasty," while he expressed the fear that additional such sanctions against Hezbollah would endanger the delicate balance in his country. According to Reuters, Mansour said, "This will hinder Lebanese political life in the future, especially considering our sensitivities in Lebanon," while adding, "We need to tighten bonds among Lebanese parties, rather than create additional problems.”
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