Hezbollah

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee

What recent assessment he has made of the security threat posed by Hezbollah to (a) Israel and (b) the middle east.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis Conservative, Banbury

What recent assessment he has made of the security threat posed by Hezbollah to (a) Israel and (b) the middle east.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The UK remains deeply concerned about Hezbollah’s actions and behaviour in the region. As the Home Secretary outlined in February, Hezbollah’s destabilising role in the middle east led to our proscription of the group in its entirety. We continue to condemn Hezbollah and all armed militia groups for seeking to amass illegal weapons and arms, and for putting the security of Lebanon and Israel at risk, in direct contradiction of UN Security Council resolution 1701.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee

I offer my strong congratulations to the Minister on his new role; he is a good man.

I strongly welcome the Government’s decision to proscribe Hezbollah in full earlier this year. Israel recently revealed that it has exposed Hezbollah cells in border villages on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Does the Minister share my grave concern and agree that were the Golan Heights to be under Syrian control, the security risk would be catastrophic, not only for Israel but for the entire region?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his generous words, and I share his concerns about this matter. We condemn Hezbollah—we could not be clearer than that—and have gone further than most countries in doing so. However, we consider the Golan Heights to be occupied territory, which is contrary to international law. We do not believe that the Golan Heights are part of the territory of the state of Israel.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis Conservative, Banbury

I too congratulate the Minister on his new appointment.

I welcome the Government’s recent decision to proscribe the whole of Hezbollah, but will the Minister tell me what more we are doing to confront people in this country who encourage the group’s terrorism?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her comments.

We have proscribed Hezbollah, so it will not be able to demonstrate and spread its message of hate, contrary to the interests and values of this country. I do not think we could have done much more, immediately, to make it clear that the organisation is beyond the law and that people who campaign for or show support for it are committing a criminal act.

Photo of Louise Ellman Louise Ellman Labour/Co-operative, Liverpool, Riverside

Hezbollah, as a proxy for Iran, promotes terrorism and instability right throughout the middle east. Last year, Hezbollah built six terror tunnels between the border of Lebanon and Israel, for the purpose of promoting terrorism and ruining any chances of peace; why has all that not been taken more seriously?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

I hope the hon. Lady will understand that it is most definitely being taken seriously. Hezbollah is a clear and present danger: it destabilises the region and also offers instability in this country, which is why we have proscribed it in its entirety. That proscription has now taken effect—it happened in March—and I very much hope not only that it will assist in ensuring that activity in this country is curtailed but, more particularly, that when we are dealing with the region we make it absolutely clear that Hezbollah has no place in the middle east’s future.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Independent, Ilford South

I too welcome the Minister. Will he confirm that Hezbollah is in Syria working as a proxy for the Iranian regime and the Assad Government, and has played a malign role, killing many, many innocent people in the Syrian conflict?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. Hezbollah is a force for evil in our world today, which is why we have taken the strong action we have against it.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire

Hezbollah is arguably the most successful export to come out of revolutionary Iran. Does the Minister share my serious concern that we are talking not just about Hezbollah but about the presence of the Revolutionary Guard of Iran in Syria today? Does he share my serious concerns about the new threat this poses on the northern borders of Israel?

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

We need to understand what is happening in Syria and the fact that so many proxies of one sort or another are active and engaged in it—it is a maelstrom of such activity, and we need to deal with that. I think we know which countries are behind support for this in Syria, and all we can do is do what we can to maintain good relationships, as far as we possibly can, with those countries in the hope that our good counsel will prevail and that we will be able to curtail some of these unpleasant groups.