The first official meeting between a senior British diplomat and a representative of Hizbollah has taken place in Lebanon, drawing a sharp rebuke from Israel.
Britain’s ambassador to Lebanon, Frances Guy, met Lebanese MP Mohammed Raad in Beirut last Thursday.
British foreign policy allows cautious contact with people Britain considers to be in the political wing of the organisation and not involved in violence.
But the meeting was criticised by Israeli Embassy political counsellor Ran Gidor, who said: “We do not think it is appropriate for British government representatives to be meeting members of the Hizbollah terrorist organisation.
“Hizbollah has repeatedly prided itself on targeting Israeli civilians and has been directly responsible for the deaths of numerous US and UK soldiers in Iraq and Lebanon through the training of insurgents.
“It has been financed, trained and supplied by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards — the same body that has threatened in recent days to shoot down peaceful demonstrators in Tehran and execute pro-democracy activists.
“We, among many others, including the Hizbollah leadership itself, do not see any distinction at all between its so-called military and political wings.”
The Foreign Office said the ambassador and the MP discussed Lebanese internal affairs in the wake of the recent election, which Hizbollah lost to a Western-backed alliance.
They also discussed the implementation of United Nations Resolution 1701, passed in 2006 after the 34-day war between Israel and Hizbollah. The resolution brought a ceasefire, withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and called for the disarming of Hizbollah.
Other than that, according to a Foreign Office spokesperson in London, there was no specific discussion about Israel.
The FO spokesperson said: “Our objective on Hizbollah remains the same. We would urge Hizbollah very much to reject violence and play a constructive and peaceful role in the democratic process of the country.
“On Resolution 1701, we are extremely keen that it should be implemented fully and one reason Frances Guy met Mohammed Raad was to push this through.”
Asked whether or not there will be more meetings, the spokesperson would say only that “it will be [judged] on a case-by-case basis”.
Mr Raad told a news agency after the meeting: “I believe the doors are open to further meetings.”