Katalin Novak - Photo: Facebook

Novak calls for closer ties with Armenia

President Katalin Novak, receiving Armenian counterpart Vahagn Khachaturyan in Budapest on Tuesday, said ties between the country should be strengthened and "filled with content".

During his first official visit to Hungary, the Armenian president and Novak discussed “issues around peace in the world, Hungary’s efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Armenia, demographic challenges, bilateral ties, minorities, as well as a European outlook for Armenia,” Novak said.

Diplomatic ties with Armenia were re-established in 2022, and Khachaturyan is the second Armenian president to visit Hungary, Novak noted. At their talks, the two presidents also agreed to launch a cultural cooperation schedule for Hungary and Armenia.

The agreement signed on behalf of Hungary by Balazs Hanko, the deputy state secretary for higher education, caters to strengthening bilateral relations in higher education, science, technology and culture.

Regarding the Hungary Helps programme, in which Hungary has donated 40 million forints to Armenian families for medical care, another aspect of the scheme will enable around 1,000 children forced to leave their homes to camp in Hungary.

The president said the Armenian minority in Hungary, which was awarded government support of 2 billion forints between 2011 and 2023, was strengthening and developing, and the community has expanded by 18 percent since 2011.

Trade turnover grew eleven-fold to 29 million dollars over the span of 20 years. Hungary also offers 30 Stipendium Hungaricum scholarships to Armenian youth, she noted, adding that Hungary Helps also aids members of persecuted Christian communities.

Novak pledged its support for Armenia in forging close ties with Europe and advancing visa liberalisation when it takes over the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Meanwhile, asked about Sweden’s NATO accession, Novak said she favoured early ratification and she had asked the Hungarian MPs to vote for it. She said she had spoken yesterday with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson by phone and encouraged him to visit Hungary as soon as possible for talks with herself and the prime minister.

Regarding the political opposition furore over a presidential pardon given to an official connected with a paedophile, the president said that pedophilia was “disgusting and the most serious crime”. There would be no pardon for paedophiles during her presidency, she said, adding that she had led action against child abusers with the introduction of a register of sex offenders. The justification for the presidential pardon could not be made public for legal reasons, she said.

Khachaturyan welcomed “a new era in Armenian-Hungarian relations” when the two countries “have an opportunity to restart ties, which may offer huge opportunities.”

Meanwhile, he said both Russia and Ukraine have large Armenian communities and “they are now fighting each other, which is unacceptable.” The Armenian president thanked Novak for Hungary’s support for ethnic Armenians.

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