Britain Reconsidering Hezbollah Channel?

Posted July 18th, 2010 by Thanassis Cambanis and filed in Writing

In a recent interview with Asharq Alawsat, the United Kingdom’s new Conservative Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said that Britain was reconsidering its policy of limited relations with Hezbollah. In 2008, after a three-year hiatus, the British Foreign Office quietly resumed its policy of allowing diplomats to talk to Hezbollah’s “political wing,” making a distinction between the organization’s political and military sides that Hezbollah itself does not.

Burt didn’t say the U.K. would cut off the limited dialogue between its diplomats and Hezbollah’s elected members of parliament, but that the British government would review all future contacts:

It is still too early to say if we are going to adopt the approach of the previous government with regards to distinguishing between the political and military wings of Hezbollah. … There may be occasions where limited communication would be in everybody’s interests and the interests of the peace process in general. However we will place such communication under constant review, and on a case by case basis.

The British Labor government kept more open channels with Middle Eastern militants than the United States has, at times drawing rebukes from Washington. It will be interesting to see whether the new Conservative government continues the same approach.

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