RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia on Tuesday welcomed Britain’s decision to outlaw the political wing of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, describing it as an “important and constructive” step.
Britain announced on February 25 it would seek to make membership of the Shiite movement or inviting support for it a crime, blacklisting the group as a terror organization.
The decision followed outrage over the display of the Hezbollah flag, which features a Kalashnikov assault rifle, at pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London.
“Categorizing the (Hezbollah) militia, which is backed by Iran, as a terrorist organization is an important and constructive step in combating terrorism around the world,” said a foreign ministry source, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
“Britain’s decision is in line with the decision Saudi Arabia has taken towards the terrorist party, both politically and militarily.”
London’s move has also been welcomed by the United States, Israel and other foes of Iran, Hezbollah’s key supporter.
Hezbollah meanwhile said Britain had “insulted the sentiments and the will of the Lebanese.”
In 2016, the Gulf Cooperation Council — which includes regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — designated Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.
Hezbollah was established in 1982 during Lebanon’s civil war and is now a major political party in the country, holding three cabinet posts.
It has fought two wars with Israel, including 2006’s Second Lebanon War, when it fired thousands of missiles at Israeli towns.
The group has also been accused of involvement in attacks against Jews and Israelis abroad, including two bombings in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s that killed over 100 people.
In 2012, Hezbollah operatives blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian resort town of Burgas, killing six people, including a local driver.
The bombing led to a renewed push by Israel to have the group, including the political wing, outlawed by the EU.
Britain blacklisted Hezbollah’s military wing in 2008 but had until now made no move against its political wing.
However, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said last Monday that any distinction between its military and political wings “does not exist.”
The US designated Hezbollah a foreign terrorist organization in 1997.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.