Budapest is twinned with numerous cities but many of these pacts are more protocol-based, Tarlos said after the signing ceremony on Bethlehem's Manger Square. Others involve a more active relationship, however, and Budapest attaches special importance to its cooperation with Bethlehem, he added.

Budapest hopes to focus its cooperation with Bethlehem on classical culture, youth affairs, sport and heritage protection. Tarlós said Budapest's goal with the agreement was not political, but rather to create the conditions for cooperation with "the iconic birthplace and spiritual roots of the Christian community", arguing that Europe's classical culture needed to be protected.

Another aim is to bolster Budapest's image and attract more and more tourists from Bethlehem to the Hungarian capital, he said.

Tarlós praised the roles Marie Antoinette Sedin, the former Palestinian ambassador to Hungary, and Csaba Rada, Hungary's ambassador to Palestine, played in bringing together the pact between the two cities.

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Salman said after the signing that he plans to visit Budapest next spring to get to know more about Hungarian culture. Bethlehem wants to engage in cultural exchanges with its newfound Hungarian twin city, as well as a chance to promote itself to Hungarians and raise awareness of the challenges faced by Palestinians and the people of Bethlehem, he said.

Before signing the agreement, Tarlós visited the Aida refugee camp north of Bethlehem's historic city centre.


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