German MP renews calls for EU to ban Hezbollah

Bundestag member Bijan Djir-Sarai calls on Brussels to seize the moment following Beirut explosion and outlaw Hezbollah

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the damaged port area in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo

A German Bundestag member has called on the European Union to ban the Iran-backed militia Hezbollah following the devastating explosion in Beirut.

Bijan Djir-Sarai, a foreign policy spokesman for the centre-right Free Democratic Party (FDP), has said Brussels needs to “face reality” especially amid the fallout from the August 4 explosion in Beirut’s port, which killed at least 177 people.

"The explosion drew attention to the role of foreign, non-state actors within the fragile fabric of Lebanon," Mr Djir-Sarai wrote in the German newspaper Die Welt.

“It is well known that both the port of Beirut and the airport are under the control of the Tehran-controlled Shiite Hezbollah militia. The Islamist organisation has a firm grip on the country,” he added.

Germany banned all activity by Hezbollah on its soil and designated the group a terrorist organisation in April this year.

The EU, however, has differentiated between Hezbollah’s military and political wings in its dealings with the group.

In 2012 Brussels placed a ban on Hezbollah’s military activities after a suicide bombing that killed six people. The bloc did not impose sanctions on the group as a whole.

Politicians and experts across Europe have insisted there is no distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military activities while others have expressed concerns that such a ban could harm diplomatic relations with the Lebanon.

“It would be a mistake not to use this window of international attention and leave Lebanon to its fate, its failure” Mr Djir-Sarai, who grew up in Iran, wrote.

“It is also now time to promote Hezbollah's classification as a terrorist organisation at EU level,” he added.

Hezbollah has denied a role in the Beirut explosion. However, much public anger following the blast has been aimed at the Islamist group and Lebanon’s political elite.

On Tuesday a special tribunal in the Netherlands established that a Hezbollah member was responsible for the 2005 killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. However the court did not find evidence of Hezbollah leadership’s involvement.