Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Cooperation with Turkic Council ‘yielding significant profits’

Cooperation with the member states of the Turkic Council has resulted in mutual help during the coronavirus pandemic, and doubled Hungary' trade volume with the region compared with 2010, Peter Szijjarto, the minister of foreign affairs and trade, said in Khiva, Uzbekistan, on Thursday.

Speaking at a meeting of the International Organisation of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY), Szijjarto noted that Hungary’s trade with the member states has reached an annual four billion dollars.

Strengthening international relationships hinges on reaching young people, Szijjarto said, noting that Hungary offers 850 grants for students from Turkic Council member states every year. This year, some 4,900 students applied, he said.

Meanwhile, the “failure of the international intervention in Afghanistan” has put the region in the limelight and created a “very worrisome” security situation, he said. Fears of another wave of illegal migration are justified, he said.

“The Hungarian government sees statements encouraging Afghans to leave their country extremely irresponsible,” he said. Hungary will not support decisions likely to destabilise the region, he added.

Szijjarto said Hungary was committed to strengthening ties with TURKSOY. Despite the geographic distance between the countries, Hungary has always nurtured deep ties with the Central Asian region and Turkey, he said, noting the nation’s central Asian origins, and the work of Hungarian turcologist Armin Vambery who spent time in Khiva during his travels in the 19th century. Talks are under way on an exhibition of Vambery’s work in the city, he said.

Speaking to reporters after meeting Azeri, Uzbek and Turkish ministers, Szijjarto said “there was consensus in Central Asia” that the crisis in Afghanistan needs to be tackled locally.

“There is a humanitarian crisis in the country with four million internally displaced people and an instable political situation,” he said.

Szijjarto said a mass exodus was a “realistic scenario”, which he said would pose serious security threats. He said migrants could easily reach Turkey, where a construction of a wall on the Iranian border is still under way.  “The next step is the Western Balkans and the Hungarian border can be easily reached from there,” Szijjarto said.

While the Hungarian government is prepared to handle a wave of migrants at the country’s southern border, it would be best to avoid that situation, he said.

“Alongside the countries in the region, Hungary calls for the challenges in Afghanistan to be handled within the country. We also ask EU officials … and Western European political leaders to refrain from irresponsible statements encouraging waves of illegal migration,” he said.

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