The European Union has rejected a request by Israel to blacklist Hezbollah as a “terror group” after Tel Aviv blamed the Lebanese group for last week’s deadly bombing in Bulgaria.
“There is no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organisations,” the Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, said on Tuesday.
Israel accused Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese group, of carrying out Wednesday’s suicide attack on a bus at the Black Sea airport of Burgas, Bulgaria, in which five Israelis and their Bulgarian driver died.
Sitting alongside the Cypriot minister at a news conference held after annual EU-Israel talks, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, said: “The time has come to put Hezbollah on the terrorist list of Europe.”
“It would give the right signal to the international community and the Israeli people,” he added.
But Kozakou-Marcoullis said Hezbollah was an organisation comprising a party as well as an armed wing and was “active in Lebanese politics”.
“Taking into account this and other aspects there is no consensus for putting Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organisations,” she said.
The EU would consider this if there were tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terror, she added.
Fears over Syrian chemical weapons
Lieberman also said on Tuesday that Israel is ready to intervene militarily if there is any indication that Hezbollah is accessing chemical weapons in violence-wrecked Syria.
His comments came amid reports that Syrian government forces had moved chemical weapons to airports near its borders – a day after Damascus warned that it could use them if Syria is attacked by an external force.
“In the moment we see that the Syrians transfer chemical and biological weapons to Hezbollah, this is a red line for us and from our point of view it’s a clear casus belli,” Lieberman said in Brussels – using the Latin expression justifying war.
“We will act decisively and without hesitation or restraint,” he added. “It will be a completely different ballgame and we hope for the understanding of the international community.”
When asked if Israel has any indication that Hezbollah is already accessing Syrian weapons, Lieberman said his country is aware of the Iranian-backed Shia movement’s “desire, their attempt to achieve chemical and biological weapons”.
The United States, Canada and Britain have already included Hezbollah in their lists of designated terrorist organisations.
Adding the group to the EU list would require unanimity among the bloc’s 27 member states.