'We can't just close our eyes', EU adds Hezbollah's militant branch to terrorism blacklist

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'We can't just close our eyes', EU adds Hezbollah's militant branch to terrorism blacklist

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Blacklisted by the EU, Hezbollah’s armed branch has been labelled a terrorist organisation. Any assets of the Lebanese-based group’s militant wing will be frozen to limit their activities.

The move agreed by the 28 foreign leaders meeting in Brussels is a reversal of past policy fueled by concerns over the Lebanese group’s militant activities on European soil.

“We cannot just close our eyes and set a precedent that it’s possible to act as a terrorist with acts as you see in Bulgaria or in Cyprus or what is also acted in Syria by this group. It’s really the time to tell the truth,” explained Linas Atanas Linkeviius, Foreign Minister of Lithuania which holds the rotating head of the EU presidency.

Britain and the Netherlands have been pushing for the move since May. The British foreign minister assured the move will not damage relations with Lebanon.

“The European Union will continue to be able to talk to the various parts in Lebanon, we will continue our work to try help the stability of Lebanon. And the UK is doing a lot, we are helping to fund the border operations of the Lebanese armed forces their border security, we are all concerned about the stability of Lebanon,” announced William Hague, shortly after the meeting.

The UK cited evidence that Hezbollah was behind an attack in Bulgaria last year which killed five Israelis and their driver, which is said to have largely influenced the decision.

By limiting the sanctions to the militant wing, the EU hoped to avoid destabilising the Lebanese government, as Hezbollah’s political branch is part of the ruling coalition.

E’fi Koutsoko’sta reports from Brussels:

“EU Foreign policy chiefs took a political decision with sanctions to come into effect next week at the latest. However, the way in which they intend to freeze the assets of the military branch remains unknown as Hezbollah does not formally divide itself into armed and political wings.”