The French government announced on Friday that it has decided to freeze the assets of Masood Azhar, the founder and leader of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist group, a media report said.

A joint statement issued by the French Interior Ministry, Finance Ministry and Foreign Ministry said that France would also discuss putting Azhar on an European Union list of people suspected of being involved in terrorism, Reuters reported.

Pakistan is under pressure from many countries to act against terrorist groups including the JeM, which claimed responsibility for the February 14 suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir that killed over 44 CRPF personnel.

The move by the French government comes two days after China for the fourth time blocked a move to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.

In the wake of the Pulwama terror attack claimed by Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, that left over 44 CRPF personnel dead, the US, the UK and France had moved a fresh proposal in the UN Security Council to designate Pakistan-based terror group JeM’s chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, a listing that will subject him to global travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo.

The proposal was moved by the three permanent veto-wielding members of the 15-nation Security Council.

The Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee members had 10 working days to raise any objections to the proposal.

However, just before the deadline, China put a “technical hold” on the proposal.

Defending its move to put a technical hold on the fresh proposal, Beijing on Thursday said it wanted to give more time to all parties to find a “lasting solution” acceptable to all in the matter, even as it asserted that it was “sincere” about building better bilateral ties with India.

Outraged by China blocking the move on Masood Azhar, responsible UNSC members warned they “may be forced to pursue other actions” at the Security Council if Beijing continued with this policy.

China, a close ally of Pakistan, has consistently blocked moves first by India and later by the US, the UK and France to designate Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the 1267 Committee by putting technical holds.

An assets freeze under the Sanctions Committee requires that all states freeze without delay the funds and other financial assets or economic resources of designated individuals and entities.

France assumes the crucial rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in March.

The proposal was moved just two days before France assumes the crucial rotating presidency of the UN Security Council. Informed sources earlier told PTI that “France is focussed on bringing individual listing requests of JeM terrorists to the 1267 Committee soon”.

The French Presidency of the UNSC comes after the 15-nation UN organ under the presidency of Equatorial Guinea had issued a highly significant press statement strongly condemning the Pulwama terror attack.