European Union nations failed to come to a decision to add the military wing of Hezbollah to the bloc’s list of international terrorist groups despite fresh talks on the issue, diplomatic sources told AFP on Thursday.
At a meeting called on Wednesday at Britain’s behest, the second this month, experts from the 27-nation bloc failed to reach a unanimous decision to blacklist Lebanon’s powerful Shiite group, the sources said.
Diplomats speaking on condition of anonymity said Austria and the Czech Republic opposed the move to add the Shiite militia to the dozen people and score of groups currently on the EU terrorist list — including Hamas and Colombia’s FARC guerrillas — who are subject to an asset freeze.
Concerns over Hezbollah have mounted in Europe since an attack last year on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria which Sofia blamed on Hezbollah. In March, a Cyprus court sentenced a Hezbollah member to four years behind bars for planning attacks there.
Hezbollah has also plunged into the Syrian conflict in recent months, sending fighters to help President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in battles against rebel forces.
After months of hesitation, EU counter-terror specialists first met on the issue on June 4 but failed to reach unanimity on blacklisting Hezbollah after objections from several countries.
France, Germany and the Netherlands have backed Britain in seeking to add Hezbollah to the list.
But EU diplomats said opponents fear such a move could destabilise politically fragile Lebanon, where Hezbollah is in government, and would be hard to implement due to the difficulty of distinguishing between its political and military wings.
The closed-door talks took place within a committee known as CP931 after the EU’s “common position” 931, setting up the bloc’s terrorist blacklist. It meets regularly to oversee the EU list.
Hezbollah has been on a US terror blacklist since 1995 after a series of anti-American attacks, including the bombing of the US embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in the 1980s.
Currently, Britain and the Netherlands are the only EU nations to have placed Hezbollah on their lists of terrorist groups.