Britain asks EU to ban Hizbollah
Britain has formally asked the European Union to outlaw Hizbollah as a terrorist organisation.
The move increases the likelihood of the EU taking action against the Iranian-backed group and follows months of pressure from Anglo-Jewish groups.
Prime Minister David Cameron requested that British Jews "make a noise" and help him persuade the EU to ban Hizbollah following a meeting with community leaders in January.
To proscribe Hizbollah requires consensus among all 27 EU members. The move would freeze the group's accounts and funding, hitting its European operations and terrorist activities.
It is understood that Hizbollah's increasing role in the Syrian Civil War led the Foreign Office to make the formal request.
A special EU working group is now due to discuss what steps to take against the group at a meeting next month with a ban on the organisation possibly being introduced by the end of June.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are calling for Europe to respond collectively and robustly following the atrocious terrorist attack at Bourgas airport and in light of the recent conviction of an Hizbollah operative in Cyprus.
“We firmly believe that an appropriate EU response would be to designate Hizballah’s military wing as a terrorist organisation. This would be in line with our national proscription of Hizballah’s military wing.
“We continue to work closely with our European partners on this issue to reach a robust, collective EU position."
Middle East minister Alistair Burt said last week that the government was eager to see a “robust response” from the EU to the suicide bombing carried out by Hizbollah in the Bulgarian resort of Bourgas last July which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver.
The EU currently classifies Hizbollah as a social welfare organisation. The US, Israel, Canada and the Netherlands are the only countries which currently list Hizbollah as a terrorist organisation in its entirety — both its political and military wings.
A delegation of British Jewish community representatives met Helga Schmid, deputy head of the EU’s external action service last month to push for a Europe-wide ban.
Foreign Secretary William Hague is due to visit Israel on Thursday.