… And the British-Hezbollah relations entered a new era!
Indeed, and a few months following its ‘suspicious’ decision to halt talks with the Resistance group and to add its ‘military wing’ to its list of ‘banned organizations,’ Britain decided to reconsider its position in light of “more positive developments within Lebanon.”
Thus, dialogue with Hezbollah didn’t turn out to be only possible but also fruitful according to British officials. According to Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammel, the British dialogue offer seeks “to press Hezbollah to play a more constructive role in the region.”
The move was confirmed on Friday by British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband. The latter told BBC radio that he allowed the contacting of junior Hezbollah officials to announce his country’s commitment to the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which, he noted, “called among other things, to dissolve the militias.”
The move entails a sharp change to earlier British policy declared in 2005, when the government made it clear that it would talk with neither the group’s military nor political branches. In July 2008 the government added Hezbollah’s military wing to its list of “banned organizations.”
Yet, Miliband noted that Hezbollah’s ‘military wing’ was still banned in Britain but emphasized that the party was represented in the Lebanese national unity government, formed last July.
Meanwhile, Britain’s government spokesman John Wilks said on Friday that his government’s decision to engage in direct contacts with Hezbollah’s political wing was aimed at encouraging the group to steer clear from violence and play a more democratic role. “Our aim is to encourage Hezbollah to stay away from violence and play a constructive, peaceful and democratic role in Lebanese politics,” John Wilks told Lebanese daily As-Safir on Friday.
“The change of policy has nothing to do with the policies adopted by the administration of US President Barack Obama and its openness to Syria and Iran,” he stressed.
Asked if the British announcement would be followed by another decision to remove Hezbollah’s military wing from the blacklist of terrorist groups, Wilks said: “Our policy is to stress Hezbollah’s right to represent its electorates as a political party … The political wing of Hezbollah is of course part of the national unity government in Lebanon and the UK is doing everything possible to back this government.”
HEZBOLLAH HAILS DECISION AS STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION
Britain has taken a “step in the right direction” by signaling willingness to talk to Hezbollah, Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim al-Moussawi declared on Friday.
“This policy revision is a step in the right direction and we shall see how it translates in practical terms,” Moussawi added.
Earlier, Hezbollah sources told Lebanese daily As-Safir that it was waiting what steps Britain would take after Rammell’s announcement.