EU rebuffs call to put Hezbollah on terror list

Liberman says move would send important signal; Misezhnikov holds memorial service in Burgas.

Liberman with Markoulis at meeting in Brussels 370 (photo credit: Screenshot)
Liberman with Markoulis at meeting in Brussels 370
(photo credit: Screenshot)
Despite last week’s terrorist attack in Bulgaria that Israel blamed squarely on Hezbollah, the EU Tuesday rejected Israeli calls to place the Lebanese organization on its terrorist blacklist.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou- Marcoullis, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said at a press conference in Brussels with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman that there is “no consensus among the EU member states for putting Hezbollah on the terrorist list of the organization.”
Such a move, she said, required unanimity from the EU’s 27 member states.
Liberman, who met Tuesday with his EU colleagues as part of the annual EU-Israel Association Council meeting, had called on the body to put Hezbollah on its terrorist list. Doing so would make illegal any financial transfer from the EU to Hezbollah or to any member of that organization. Liberman said such a move would send a powerful message both to the international community and the Israeli public.
“From our point of view it is unacceptable that Hezbollah terrorists meet and talk with Western diplomats in Beirut on one hand, and they pursue their terrorist activity on European soil on the other hand,” he said at the press conference.
Kozakou-Marcoullis, speaking for the EU, plainly refused the request.
“The Lebanese Hezbollah is an organization that comprises a political party [and a] social services network, as well as an armed wing,” she said. “Hezbollah is active in Lebanese politics, including the parliament and the government, and plays a specific role with regard to the status quo in Lebanon.”
Taking this and other aspects into account, she said, there is “no consensus among the EU member states for putting Hezbollah on the terrorist list of the organization. Should there be tangible evidence of Hezbollah engaging in acts of terrorism, the EU would consider listing the organization.”
Cyprus is currently holding a suspect who according to Israeli officials, has admitted under interrogation to being a Hezbollah operative. He was arrested there late last month while allegedly planning an attack on Israeli tourists.
Israel has been attempting unsuccessfully since the mid-1990s to get Hezbollah included on the EU terror list. It has both provided the EU with intelligence information and sent experts to brief EU officials in Brussels on the matter – all to no avail.
According to one official, the main country blocking these efforts is France, which has historic ties with Lebanon and feels its influence there would be diminished by such a move.
Another official said that there was no doubt that under any classification of a terrorist group, Hezbollah – which is on the US terror blacklist – “fits the description like a glove.”
Other diplomatic officials slammed Liberman for raising the issue in Brussels now, saying that he “shot from the hip” without properly preparing the groundwork and building on all of Israel’s efforts over the years.
In Burgas, meanwhile, Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov held a memorial ceremony at the site of the attack near Burgas Airport where a terrorist killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver last week. He said that not only Hezbollah, but also Iran, has to be held responsible for the bombing.
“It is important that we bring to justice not only those directly responsible for the terror attack,” he said in reference to Hezbollah, “but also the county that sent them – Iran.”
Meseznikov said that Iran uses terror cells to spread terrorism throughout the world.
The tourism minister, who thanked the Bulgarian authorities and local rescue forces for their assistance during the crisis, said that the message he had come to deliver was that terrorism must not be allowed to disrupt life.

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“We cannot allow terrorists who have tried to destroy relationships between countries succeed in their evil intentions, and the answer to the terrorism needs to be the strengthening of our ties in all areas,” he said.
“Bulgaria was and remains a friendly nation for us.”
Immediately following the ceremony, attended by his Bulgarian counterpart, the mayor of Burgas and leaders of Bulgaria’s small Jewish community, Meseznikov toured vacation sites frequented by Israelis, including Sunny Beach, the destination resort of the targeted tourist bus. He also visited Varna, another popular Black Sea city popular with Israeli travelers.
On Monday Meseznikov met Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and announced that a Bulgarian ministerial delegation would come to Israel in September to discuss strengthening the two countries’ tourism, security and strategic cooperation.
Borisov on Tuesday revealed new details about the activities of the terrorists who Burgas bombing, the Bulgarian Sofia News Agency reported.
“They came about a month before that, they changed leased vehicles, they moved in different cities so as not to be seen together, and no two of them can be seen in one place on any security camera,” Borisov told the news agency, adding that the people behind the horrific blast had been “exceptionally skilled.”
“The services worked perfectly but the manner in which the attack was carried out indicates it could not have been prevented,” he emphasized, according to the report.
Bulgaria’s prime minister indicated that even if the terrorists had not attacked the Israeli tourists at the airport, they still could have followed the tourists’ bus to their hotel and detonated a bomb there.
“We are very vulnerable. You can enter Bulgaria from any place as a tourist, an expert, or a guest in the mixed-population areas, but our services do not have multi-billion budgets,” he declared, said the report.
According to the news agency, Borisov still stressed that the investigation was moving forward and that Bulgarian services were on par with other nations’ services that had investigated the September 11 attacks and the Madrid train bombings.