Officials say UK & U.S. are pressing several reluctant EU countries to back such a move, ahead of the July 22 meeting of EU foreign ministers.
The foreign ministers of the European Union are most likely to add Hezbollah’s military wing to the body’s list of designated terror organizations when they meet on July 22, according to high-ranking Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem.
The officials said Britain and the United States are pressing several EU countries that are reluctant to back such a move.
Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin on Sunday convened a special meeting at the Foreign Ministry to discuss efforts to include Hezbollah on the EU’s list of terrorist groups. One senior Foreign Ministry official said EU institutions are expected to conduct several meetings on the matter in the coming days.
A team of experts from the 27-member EU are expected to meet for the third time on Thursday (July 18). In recent weeks, these experts have tried to formulate a unified position on the issue to present to the foreign ministers for discussion.
Meanwhile, the EU Foreign Affairs Council (comprising EU member state ministers responsible for foreign affairs and defense issues) is scheduled to meets in Brussels just a few days later, on July 22.The council is expected to hold a meeting on the Hezbollah question and reach a decision, even if the team of experts does not reach a consensus.
Including Hezbollah’s military wing on the EU’s list of terrorist groups requires a unanimous vote of all 27 member states.
Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem are cautiously optimistic. “There’s a good chance that an agreement will be reached to add Hezbollah to the list of terrorist groups as early as next Monday’s meeting,” a high-ranking Israeli official said.
The official said Britain is pushing forcefully for the move, joined by France, Germany and the Netherlands. The countries that support deeming Hezbollah as a terrorist group say its involvement in the bus bombing in the Bulgarian city of Burgas in July 2012, which killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian, along with its attempted terror attacks against Israeli tourists in Cyprus, prove it has committed acts of terror on EU soil.
The U.S. administration, meanwhile, is pressing several EU countries including Austria and Malta, which are still on the fence, and is hopeful the move will succeed next week. Senior American officials said they felt the reluctant countries could be persuaded to approve the measure, which they said was important.
The U.S. and Britain have also been putting a great deal of pressure on EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who has appeared reluctant to blacklist the group. The high-ranking Israeli official said Ashton prefers to discuss Hezbollah with the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council in the context of Lebanon and its domestic stability.
“If the discussion is held under that heading, there’s a risk many of the undecided countries could get cold feet and not support the measure,” he said.
View original HAARETZ publication at: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/eu-likely-to-add-hezbollah-s-military-wing-to-list-of-terror-groups-israeli-officials-say-1.535869