The US State Department praised Serbia on Sunday for its decision to designate Lebanon’s Shiite Iran-backed Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.
The designation was said to be included in a deal between Serbia and Kosovo reached earlier this month that will also see Pristina establish diplomatic relations with Israel and set up its embassy in Jerusalem.
Kosovo reportedly already recognized both the military and political wings of Hezbollah as a terror group in June, before the signing of the deal brokered by US President Donald Trump.
The United States and Israel have long designated Hezbollah a terrorist group and have urged allies to follow suit.
In the European Union, Britain, Lithuania and Germany have heeded that call.
Many other countries draw a distinction between the group’s military wing and its political wing, which is a major force in Lebanese politics.
In a statement on Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Serbia’s move was “another significant step limiting this Iranian backed terrorist group’s ability to operate in Europe.
“This important action was announced as part of the historic commitments President Trump secured on a wide range of economic normalization issues between Serbia and Kosovo, coupled with the steps both nations are taking to help achieve peace in the Middle East,” he continued.
“There is no doubt that the dominoes are falling on Hizballah’s European operations, where it has continued to plot terrorist attacks, procure military technology, and raise much needed funding.
“The United States continues to call on the European Union and European nations to designate or ban Hizballah in its entirety, and recognize the reality that it is a terrorist organization root and branch with no distinction between its so-called ‘military’ and ‘political’ wings. We urge all countries in Europe and elsewhere to take whatever action they can to prevent Hizballah operatives, recruiters, and financiers from operating on their territories.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić responded to Pompeo on Twitter: “Rest assured, dear friend @SecPompeo, that we remain firm in our pursuit of peace and stability, thus contributing to overall global security.”
Earlier this month, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying that Israel would establish diplomatic relations with the Muslim-majority Kosovo, which along with Belgrade would set up embassies in Jerusalem. A Serbian source has since told The Times of Israel the country wouldn’t move the embassy if Israel recognizes Kosovo.
The arrangement was apparently a part of an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia brokered by the US administration.
Serbia and Kosovo — regional rivals that don’t recognize each other — each signed separate agreements with the US regarding the normalization of economic relations between the two Balkan countries.
Hezbollah, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, was established in 1982 during the Lebanese civil war and fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel.
Agencies contributed to this report.