A statement issued in Riyadh on Wednesday by Abdullatif al-Zayani, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), has labelled the Hizbullah group terrorists.
Back in 2013, the GCC, which boasts six member states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), imposed sanctions on Hizbullah members, in retaliation for the group’s support of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s civil war.
Previously, individual GCC countries – including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab emirates and Bahrain – have labelled the group terrorists. Now the GCC Secretary-General, Abdullatif al-Zayani, said in a statement that the GCC had made a collective decision on the group.
“As the militia continues its terrorist practices, the GCC states have decided to label it a terrorist organisation and will take the necessary measures to implement its decision in this regard, based on anti-terrorism laws applied in the GCC and similar international laws,” the statement quoted Zayani as saying.
This decision came one day after a speech by Hizbullah terrorist leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah which stated that Saudi Arabia had pushed Lebanon into a new phase of political conflict – by announcing it was suspending an aid package to the Lebanese army.
Nasrallah also stepped up criticism of Saudi Arabia, accusing it of directing car bombings in Lebanon, a stage for some of the sectarian-tinged Iranian-Saudi rivalry that is escalating across the Middle East.
For his part, Zayani accused Hizbullah of committing hostile acts against GCC states, including recruiting young men who have been carrying out “terrorist attacks, smuggling weapons and explosives, and stirring up sedition and incitement to chaos and violence.”
Sunni-led Saudi Arabia, the biggest member of the GCC, wields considerable influence in Lebanon through its backing of Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri, a former prime minister who said on Tuesday that “riots, road blocking and tire burning” were attempts by Hizbullah to provoke “chaos and discord.”
Tension between Hizbullah and Hariri spilled into armed conflict as recently as 2008, when a political dispute fueled by Saudi-Iranian rivalry triggered a brief civil war. Nasrallah said there would be no repeat of that conflict.