The European Union agreed on Monday to put the armed wing of Hezbollah on its terrorism blacklist, a move driven by concerns over the Lebanese militant group’s involvement in a deadly bus bombing in Bulgaria and the Syrian war. Hezbollah troubles keep increasing as punishment for its involvement in Syria’s civil war.
The powerful Lebanese Shi’ite movement, an ally of Iran, has attracted concern in Europe and around the world in recent months for its role in sending thousands of fighters to support Syria’s psychopath Baschar al-Assad’s forces, helping turn the tide of Syria’s two-year-old civil war.
Britain and the Netherlands have long pressed their EU peers to impose sanctions on the Shi’ite Muslim group, citing evidence it was behind an attack in the coastal Bulgarian city of Burgas a year ago that killed five Israelis and their driver.
Until now, many EU capitals had resisted lobbying from Washington and Israel to blacklist the group, warning such a move could fuel instability in Lebanon and in the Middle East.
Hezbollah, which functions as a political party that is part of the Lebanese government and as a militia with thousands of guerrillas under arms, rejected the EU’s “aggressive and unjust decision which is not based on any proof or evidence”.
EU states had taken a dangerous step at the behest of the United States and Israel, Hezbollah’s staunchest foes, it said in a statement which described the declaration as “written by American hands, in Zionist ink”.
The blacklisting opens the way for EU governments to freeze any assets Hezbollah’s military wing may have in Europe.
“There’s no question of accepting terrorist organizations in Europe,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said in a statement that the EU had taken an important step by “dealing with the military wing of Hezbollah, freezing its assets, hindering its fundraising and thereby limiting its capacity to act”.
In the United States, Secretary of State John Kerry said Syria was an important factor behind the EU vote. Hezbollah troubles keep increasing as punishment for its involvement in Syria’s civil war.
“A growing number of governments are recognizing Hezbollah as the dangerous and destabilizing terrorist organization that it is,” he said.
In debating the blacklisting, many EU governments expressed concerns over maintaining Europe’s relations with Lebanon. To soothe such worries, the ministers agreed to make a statement pledging to continue dialogue with all political groups.
“We also agreed that the delivery of legitimate financial transfers to Lebanon and delivery of assistance from the European Union and its member states will not be affected,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.
Already on the EU blacklist are groups such as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, and Turkey’s Kurdish militant group PKK.
Their assets in Europe are frozen and they have no access to cash there, meaning they cannot raise money for their activities. Sanctions on Hezbollah go into effect this week.
Reuters contributed to this article.