Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Early cooperation ensures Hungary advantage in central Asia

Hungary started building ties with central Asia before other players, and now enjoys a competitive advantage in a region with growing importance, the minister of foreign affairs and trade said after meeting his Kyrgyz counterpart, Jeenbek Kulubaev, in Budapest on Monday.

Peter Szijjarto told a joint press conference with Kulubaev that in the wake of the war in Ukraine and the resulting sanctions on Russia, well-used transit routes and trade relationships had become “practically impossible”.

As a result, “physical trade routes and the supply routes of some resources moved to central Asia. Hungary, and observer in the Organisation of Turkic States, has a strategic advantage in the region … and has brought that advantage to fruition,” he said.

Hungarian-Kyrgyz trade volume jumped by a record 71 percent last year and 3.5-fold this year already, he said.

Earlier economic agreements brought excellent opportunities for Hungarian companies in the modernisation of Kyrgyzstan’s water management and irrigation system, and several projects in food processing, Szijjarto said. A Hungarian company will start a solar power plant investment project soon, he said, adding that joint steel production in Bishkek is so far worth 2.5 billion forints (EUR 6.6m), he added.

Cooperation in education is also gaining momentum, the two countries’ rectors’ conferences have recently met, and Hungary offers 200 grants per year to Kyrgyz students wishing to study here, he said.

Szijjarto also called for strengthening ties between the European Union and central Asia. He called on the EU to finally ratify a strategic partnership agreement with Kyrgyzstan that was finalised in 2019.

On the war in Ukraine, Szijjarto said Kyrgyzstan and Hungary were both members of the “global pro-peace majority”. “Both countries have paid heavily for the war in Ukraine which they are in no way responsible for,” he said.

“We both think there is no solution to this war on the battlefield … and so we want a ceasefire as soon as possible, and want to play a role in keeping channels of communication open,” he said.

At the third meeting of the Hungarian-Kyrgyz strategic council, the two countries signed an agreement on environmental protection.

Responding to a question on Hungarians evacuated from the Greek island of Rhodes where wildfires are raging, Szijjarto said that 80 Hungarians had been evacuated so far. The foreign ministry is in contact with 122 Hungarians on the island, he said, and called on them to register on the consulate’s website for assistance.

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