On Monday, the UK announced it would ban Hezbollah’s political wing as a terrorist organisation, following a decade-old ban on its military wing. It comes despite Hezbollah fighting against jihadists in Syria for many years, with Britain saying that the movement had sought to “destabilise” the balance of power in the Middle East.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has commented that the UK’s decision to extend its ban on Hezbollah would not affect its relations with Lebanon, despite Hezbollah having a role in the country’s government.
Bassil said, as quoted by AFP, that senior British officials had agreed the issue should not have an “impact on bilateral relationships between Lebanon and Britain”.
Britain’s move “will not have direct negative consequences on Lebanon because we are already used to this situation with other countries”, he added.
“If the whole world stood up and said the resistance is terrorism, this does not make it terrorism as far as the Lebanese are concerned,” he said in separate comments reported by Reuters.
Hezbollah is a Shiite paramilitary and political organisation, which was founded in the 1980s and originally aimed to end Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah has been active in the Syrian war, working with the government of the country to oust terrorists throughout its territory.
The group is reported to have made significant gains in Syria and approximately 2,000 Hezbollah fighters have died in its attempt to free the country of separatist religious extremism, which is often directed at its Shiite minority. Along the way, they have gained combat experience and mastered the use of new weaponry. Its political wing currently has three cabinet positions in the Lebanese government, including the Ministry of Health.
On Monday, Britain voiced its decision to outlaw Hezbollah, including its political wing, as a terrorist organisation.
British Home Secretary Sajid David explained the move citing Hezbollah’s alleged attempts to “destabilise” the situation in the Middle East and the UK’s inability to differentiate between Hezbollah’s political arm and military wing, which was banned in 2008 after it attacked UK troops in Iraq.
Britain’s move was praised by Israel, which views Hezbollah as its arch-enemy. The Israeli Defence Forces have repeatedly struck targets in Syria, claiming that they are being used as Hezbollah’s weapons depots or logistics facilities used by Iran to transfer weapons to the group.
Hezbollah stirred controversy among UK lawmakers in 2009, when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described it and Hamas as “friends” during a 2009 meeting in parliament. Since then, political opponents seize the opportunity to criticise Corbyn for his remark, which he later said he regrets having used.
“What do we see from his Labour Party? Hamas and Hezbollah friends, Israel and the United States enemies,” Prime Minister Theresa May said last week in parliament.
The UK became the latest in a string of countries that list the entire Hezbollah as a terrorist group, which includes the United States, the Arab League, Bahrain, Canada, France, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, and the UAE.
The European Union has only the group’s armed wing on its terror blacklist, while Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Venezuela do not consider Hezbollah to be terrorists.
Source: News Agencies