In a significant shift of policy, EU foreign ministers agreed to put the military wing of Hezbollah on the terror list following months of pressure from Washington, Israel and Britain.
Most EU governments were reluctant to take the step up to now fearing that it could lead to further destabilisation in the Middle East as the Shi’ite Muslim group has long been part of the Lebanese government.
Efforts are continuing in the country to form a new government, which some believe could be led by Hezbollah.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore admitted it would not be easy to distinguish between the military and political parts of Hezbollah, adding that Ireland had experience of distinguishing between the terrorist activities of an organisation and one that was participating in government. The decision made by the ministers drew that distinction and the EU would work with the members of Hezbollah involved in the Lebanese government.
There are some Irish troops in Lebanon but Mr Gilmore said he believed there was no danger to their safety. “This is something that is of paramount concern for the Government and something we will keep under review,” he said.
The decision will be reviewed in six months taking into account the success or otherwise of what will be a difficult balancing act, especially since Hezbollah does not divide itself into armed and political wings.
The EU will freeze the assets of the Shia Muslim group’s military wing and initiate travel bans on members believed to be involved in terror actions. At the same time they will maintain close ties with the Lebanese government and continue aid payments, especially for Syrian refugees.
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