Lebanon's Hezbollah-aligned Health Minister has said that the UK’s plans to designate the entirety of the party as a terrorist group will not impact the work of his ministry.
On Monday, the British government said that it will end its decades-long distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military arms.
Jamil Jabak was appointed to the ministry last month when Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced the new government after nearly 9 months of deliberations.
The US – who also do not distinguish between the political and military arms of Hezbollah – warned Mr Hariri over the appointment, saying that if Mr Jabak was seen to be using the ministry to bankroll Hezbollah then there would be repercussions.
“My work at the ministry is to provide services [to people] and isn’t related to the political and military work of Hezbollah,” Mr Jabak, who is close to Hezbollah but who the party insists is not a member, told local radio on Tuesday.
On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said that he would not be following the UK by designating the political and military arms of Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
“France and no other power has the right to decide what Lebanese political parties are good and which are not. This is up to the Lebanese people,” he said at a press conference with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Paris.
The French leader added that, in his view, engaging with the party could lead it to altering its position.
France is also a major troop contributing country to Unifil, the UN peacekeeping mission in south Lebanon.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Monday submitted a draft bill to parliament that, if passed, would designate the entire group and its various offshoots and subsidiaries as a terrorist organisation.
“Hezbollah is continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party," Mr Javid said.
Hezbollah, the only Lebanese militia not to disarm after the end of the 15-year civil war in 1990, has held positions in Lebanon’s cabinet since 2005.