Europe

Israel President Echos U.S. Calls For European Union to Blacklist Hezbollah

Echoing calls by U.S. officials and Bulgarian diplomats, Israeli President Shimon Peres has called upon the European Union to formally designate Hezbollah as a terror organization.

In an historic speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Peres emphasized that the Iran-backed group has engaged in a global terror campaign that included attacks on E.U. soil:

“Recently, 20 terror attempts by Hezbollah were counted all over the world – in India, Thailand, Georgia, South Africa, the US, Egypt and Greece, among others. Last month, the government of Bulgaria, a member of this European Union, reported that it had identified that the terror attack in Burgas was carried out by Hezbollah. Five Israeli tourists and one Bulgarian citizen lost their lives. Cyprus recently arrested a Hezbollah terrorist planning a terror attack,” he said.

Pressure has been mounting on the E.U. to take action against Hezbollah. U.S. National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon recently went so far as to publish an op-ed calling for a series of actions, including formal designation. Bulgarian officials, after announcing that they had discovered links between the group and the 2012 bombing of a tourist bus in the resort city of Burgas, stressed to E.U. counterparts the need to “send a clear message to Hezbollah.” Sofia’s investigations into the case are ongoing, but have been complicated by political upheaval in Bulgaria.

Several E.U. countries — notably France and Germany — are known to oppose designating Hezbollah, reportedly over fears that the group will target their interests. Inside the E.U. only the Netherlands and the U.K. have blacklisted the group, and a recent meeting of 27 E.U. foreign ministers witnessed continuing divisions over the issue. Bulgaria’s then-Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov acknowledged last month that Sofia had been pressured to modify its report — pressure the Bulgarians resisted — so as not to implicate Hezbollah.

Paris has shown hints that, pending further evidence, France might be willing to accept that an organization that conducts terrorism against E.U. citizens on E.U. soil should be considered a terror group by E.U. That evidence may soon arrive. Arguments recently concluded in the case of a confessed Hezbollah member on trial in Cyprus on terrorism-related charges. Hossam Taleb Yaacoub is accused of monitoring Israeli tourists in preparation for a terror attack nearly identical to the one that occurred in Bulgaria. If he is convicted, it will mark the second time in recent months that European officials linked Hezbollah to terror plots on the Continent.

[Photo: EUXTV / YouTube]