BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has placed the military wing of the Lebanese party Hezbollah on its terror list, an official said today.
The decision by the EU’s 28 foreign ministers today was reached unanimously, a French diplomat said.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The blacklisting would mean imposing visa bans on individuals and asset freezes on organizations associated with the group.
But the implementation would be complicated since officials would have to unravel the links between the different wings within Hezbollah’s organizational network and see who could be targeted for belonging to the military wing.
The Iranian-backed group plays a pivotal role in Lebanese politics, dominating the government since 2011, and has since sent its members to bolster Syria’s President Bashar Assad forces in their assault of rebel-held areas.
The group was also accused of involvement in last year’s attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. It has refuted that allegation.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans welcomed the decision.
“It is good that the EU has decided to call Hezbollah what it is: a terrorist organization,” he said.
Before the EU ministers reached their decision, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that evidence from last year’s attack in the Black Sea resort of Burgas in Bulgaria, which killed five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian, should give enough impetus for the move.
Westerwelle said that “we have to answer this, and the answer is” blacklisting Hezbollah.
The attack on EU territory plus a Cyprus criminal court decision in March finding a Hezbollah member guilty of helping to plan attacks on Israelis on the Mediterranean island has galvanized EU diplomacy in moving toward action.
“We should name names because time comes to tell the truth,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevicius, who chaired today’s meeting.
“What was done by the military wing in the region and elsewhere I would say, there should be some reaction.”
The Iranian-backed group plays a pivotal role in Lebanese politics, dominating the government since 2011, and has since sent its members to bolster the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad in their assault of rebel-held areas.
Even though evidence from Bulgaria and Cyprus will be key in the decision, several EU nations also have pointed to Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria as a reason for the move.
Hague said that blacklisting Hezbollah’s military wing would not “destabilize Lebanon or have serious adverse consequences.”
“It is important for us to show that we are united and strong in facing terrorism,” Hague said.