Arab League foreign ministers on Friday declared Lebanon’s Shia movement Hezbollah a “Terrorist” group, after Sunni-dominated Gulf monarchies adopted the same stance.
Nearly all members of the pan-Arab body supported the decision, but not Lebanon and Iraq which expressed “reservations”, the bloc said in a statement read out at a news conference by Bahraini diplomat Wahid Mubarak Sayar.
“The resolution of the League’s council (of foreign ministers) includes the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group,” the statement said.
The announcement comes after Gulf monarchies last week declared Hezbollah a “terrorist” group, escalating tensions with the movement which has lawmakers in Lebanon’s parliament and is backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran.
Earlier in the day, the Saudi delegation briefly withdrew from discussions to protest against Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s refusal to label Hezbollah as terrorist.
The declaration came hours after the Saudi delegation stormed out of the meeting following a speech by Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in which he defended the Shi’ite Hashd Shaabi militia grouping, an Iraqi foreign ministry source told Reuters on Friday.
Iraq’s army relies on the umbrella group known Hashd al-Shaabi in its battle against militant Sunni Islamic State.
“In his speech (the minister) said that Hashd Shaabi and Hezbollah had preserved the dignity of the Arabs and those who call them terrorists are the terrorists,” an Iraqi foreign ministry source said.
In January, Iraq summoned the Saudi ambassador after he suggested Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias were exacerbating sectarian tensions in Iraq.
The Arab League meeting on Friday also condemned what it described as continued Iranian interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain, the statement said, adding that Hezbollah, along with the Iranian revolutionary guard, financed and trained terrorist groups in Bahrain.
The Gulf island has a Shi’ite majority population but is ruled by a Sunni dynasty.
Bahrain’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Mubarak Sayar said in a news conference aired on Al-Arabiya channel there was a consensus on the decision but Lebanon and Iraq had reservations about it.
Saudi’s ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Kattan appeared on Al-Arabiya saying Gulf states would be taking further measures against Hezbollah.
“We will deal with Hezbollah as we deal with any terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries have begun preparing measures it will take against that terrorist party and they will be announced at the right time,” Kattan said.
Morocco said last month it would not host the 2016 Arab League meeting as scheduled, saying it wanted to avoid giving a false impression of unity in the Arab world.
The Arab League meeting welcomed a French initiative calling for a global conference for peace and called for effective global measures to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“Any resumption of future negotiations with regard to resolving the Arab-Israel conflict must be based on … a specific timetable for ending the Israeli occupation of the land of the State of Palestine,” its statement said.