Dutch FM: EU may blacklist Hezbollah after probe

Dutch foreign minister stresses Netherlands' position on Lebanese organization, says Burgas findings will lead to blacklisting.

People react to Bulgaria bombing 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
People react to Bulgaria bombing 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – The Netherlands’ Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans stressed on Monday the Dutch position that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and ought to be banned from European soil.
Separately, former Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal outlined to The Jerusalem Post the mixed views about outlawing Hezbollah within the 27- member European Union.
“Hezbollah is a terrorist organization,” Timmermans said in a statement issued by the Dutch Embassy in Israel .
“Frans Timmermans has expressed concern at the findings of Bulgaria’s investigation into the deadly attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas in July 2012. Bulgaria concluded that the military wing of Hezbollah was responsible.
Mr. Timmermans sees this as confirmation of the Netherlands’ position that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.
“We need to meet at EU level as soon as possible to discuss what consequences this should have,” the statement continued.
“This is the first time that an EU member state has established that Hezbollah is guilty of a terrorist attack on EU territory,” Timmermans said.
He expressed confidence that “Bulgaria’s findings will quickly lead to fresh consultations in Brussels on designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization.”
The Dutch Embassy statement said, “The Netherlands has been calling for Hezbollah to be included on the EU list of terrorist organizations since 2004, and has consistently urged its EU partners to support such a move.”
Rosenthal said during a telephone interview with the Post on Monday, “My assessment would be, the pressure to do something about Hezbollah is on the increase. On the other hand, there will be some hesitation to do what the Dutch government did.”
The Netherlands is the only European Union country to have banned Hezbollah’s entire organization because of terrorism.
Rosenthal advocated in EU forums for a ban of Hezbollah before the publication on February 5 of the Bulgarian report blaming Hezbollah for the Burgas attack.
There is mounting pressure on the EU from the United States and Canada, as well as Israel, to sanction Hezbollah because of the Lebanese organization’s terrorist campaign on European soil. Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov asserted on February 5 that two Hezbollah operatives blew up an Israeli tour bus at the Black Sea resort of Burgas, which killed five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver, and wounded more than 30 Israelis.
Rosenthal told the Post that “before the Bulgarian government came to some sort of conclusion of complicity [of Hezbollah] in the terror attack in Burgas, the Dutch government proposed to list Hezbollah.”
Last September, at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Cyprus, then-foreign minister Rosenthal said, “We have for quite some time now argued that effective European measures should be taken against Hezbollah.”
He noted that the move to ban Hezbollah would allow Europe to freeze the organization’s assets.
Asked by the Post why the EU was blocking a listing of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity, Rosenthal said there “are hesitations on part of other European countries for two reasons: They are afraid by listing Hezbollah relations with Lebanese government will come under pressure.
The second reason, according to their opinion, was that a listing would be problematic was because “it would mix up the political and military departments of Hezbollah,” he continued.
The UK listed the military wing of Hezbollah as terrorist organization in 2008 because Hezbollah targeted British soldiers in Iraq for death.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague has stopped short of calling for a full ban of the organization. He urged the EU to replicate the UK model and outlaw Hezbollah’s military wing.
Rosenthal said the French had been “outspoken over the last few months, before [the attack in] Bulgaria,” against an inclusion of Hezbollah in the EU-terror list. He cited the opposition from Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and said the French were “hesitant.”
It is the “position of the Dutch government that there are indications, call it [an equivocal stand], that Hezbollah is working together with Iran on Syria, and not to the good of people of Syria,” Rosenthal said.
Asked about the German position toward a Hezbollah ban, Rosenthal said, “Germans on the EU level were not very positive on a [definite decision]... Things can change.”
He added that since November, he had not been involved directly and “does know how the German position has developed since the Bulgarian authorities came up with their conclusion about Hezbollah complicity.
“We do know from open sources in Cyprus” about the role of Hezbollah in a terrorist plot, Rosenthal noted.
Hossam Taleb Yaacoub, a Lebanese-Swedish man, confessed to membership in Hezbollah last week during a Cypriot criminal court proceeding.
He admitted tracking Israeli flight and tourist movements on the island but denied he planned to carry out a terror attack. Hezbollah provided weapons training to him, as well as monthly payments, he said.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.