Dialogue with Great Britain may consolidate Hezbollah’s position in region

Azerbaijan, Baku, March 6 / Trend , U.Sadigova/

The British government's decision to launch direct talks with the political wing of the Lebanese faction Hezbollah can improve security in the Middle East, and at the same time to consolidate the position of the movement in Lebanon.

Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Bill Rammell stated that Great Britain was ready for a direct dialogue with Hezbollah "taking into account the political relations in Lebanon over the last year", the Reuter quoted.

This was the first positive statement of the British government to the Lebanese faction. In 2005, Britain included Hezbollah in the list of banned organizations without announcing it as a terrorist organization.

Hezbollah declared a terrorist organization in six countries, including the U.S., Canada and Australia.

The British government decided to launch a dialogue with Hezbollah, as well as the political wing of the movement is a part of the Lebanese national government, a well informed source from Rammell's office told Trend .

"Britain strongly supports the national government of Lebanon. We want to persuade Hezbollah to stop the violence and to play a democratic and peaceful role in Lebanese politics, while respecting the UN resolution," a source who asked to remain unnamed wrote to Trend via e-mail.

Since 2005 the British Interior Ministry announced Hezbollah's military wing outside the law and cut no ties with the organization.

"We have no contact with the military wing of Hezbollah," the source said.

Hezbollah holds 23 seats out of 128 in the Lebanese parliament. The party is the main force of resistance to Israel in Lebanon, and has the right for armament against Israel.

Because of the close strategic and military ties with Iran and Syria, Hezbollah is considered a pro-Western opposition to the Lebanese government that has repeatedly led to civil war in Lebanon. Recent clashes in spring last year culminated in the signing of an agreement of reconciliation in Doha between Lebanese faction of Sunni and Shiite Hezbollah.

The agreement under mediation of emir of Qatar helped form national government of Lebanon and elect president. 

Observers consider that change in the position of the Great Britain is connected with the strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon and possible victory in the elections in June 2009. 

Great Britain recognizes reality that Hezbollah transformed into a strong opposition in Lebanon with significant political influence, Christopher Davidson, a Middle East analyst at British Exeter University, said.

"Despite resistance policy, Hezbollah has all chances to strengthen its role in the Lebanese government," Davidson told Trend in a telephone conversation, adding that Britain sees it and tries to enlarge its relations in the region. 

Salem Zuheiri, head of the Arab-British center for strategic and civil studies, said that the policy of Great Britain with regards to the political groups in the Middle East fell through, and therefore, London sees the need for a dialogue with Hezbollah.

"Describing political parties as terrorists, Britain did not achieve any success in the strategic partnership in the region," Zuheiri told Trend in a telephone conversation from London.

The dialogue with Hezbollah is advantageous not only for Great Britain, but also for the Lebanese opponents of this group, which hope to weaken the military capacity of the party during the upcoming elections, Zuheiri said.

Still Hezbollah is accepted as a military group, and therefore, the dialogue with the Western country can make policy of the party liberal.

After members of movement gained seats in the Parliament of Lebanon and portfolio of the Energy Minister, Hezbollah divided into two camps - military and political. However, both wings of the group adhere to single goal of fight against Israel.

Experts consider that the beginning of dialogue with Hezbollah will help resolve conflicts in the region, and will weaken the relations of Iran not only with Hezbollah, but also with the Palestinian movement of Hamas and with Syria.

Now Europe is more interested in the dialogue with the Arab world, said Awad Chamas, head of Center for European and Mediterranean Studies, said.

According to him, this can positively affect the negotiations of Syria and Israel and help the beginning of dialogue with Hamas.

However, this does not mean that other European countries and USA can follow the example of Great Britain.

Despite that Great Britain goes to the dialogue with Hezbollah because of strengthening of the political influence of party, this will not be Europe wide policy, said Davidson.

"France is close to March 14 coalition and Sinioras government," he said.

The Netherlands has also put Hezbollah in the list of terror organizations. Germany limited broadcasting of Hezbollah's satellite TV channel Al-Manar in autumn. The German government calls anti Israeli character of TV channel's programs as the main reason.

Great Britain's intentions to release Hezbollah from resistance and terror activity in the region are ingenuous, David Schenker, director of Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute, said.

There are no differentiations between military and political wing of Hezbollah, he said.

"Hassan Nasrallah heads both wings of Hezbollah, Schenker told Trend over phone. It is early to establish relations until Hezbollah commits terror acts."

Hezbollah movement was established in 1982 upon the ideology of Iranian spiritual leader Ruholla Khomeini. The main purpose of the movement is to fight against Israeli occupation and Palestinian territories and southern Lebanon. The organization gets financing and military support from Iran and Syria.

Hezbollah participated in the parliamentary elections first in 1992 getting 12 of 128 seats in the Parliament. However, pro Western and anti Syrian politicians of Lebanon flatly opposed it.  

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