Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: MTI

Szijjarto: ‘Extreme elements’ must be cut from Hungary-Ukraine ties

"Extreme elements and manifestations" must be eliminated from Hungarian-Ukrainian relations, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Kiev on Wednesday.

At a joint press conference, Szijjarto said he had proposed to Kuleba that the intergovernmental working group set up to resolve the two countries’ differences on Ukraine’s education law should begin consultations. If the group is able to work out a solution regarding the matter, “it could remove a heavy burden from bilateral relations,” Szijjarto said.

The minister said his Ukrainian counterpart had promised that the working group would soon convene and assured him that Hungary and Ukraine would consult on the minority bills the Ukrainian government was drafting.

Szijjarto said Hungary viewed Transcarpahtian ethnic Hungarians as an asset and a link between the two countries. “When we support the ethnic Hungarian community, we’re also strengthening Hungarian-Ukrainian cooperation in line with our beliefs,” he said. “So we ask Ukraine’s citizens to see the support coming from Hungary in that light.”

As regards bilateral projects, Szijjarto said the plans for the revamp of a bridge over the river Tisza near Zahony were complete and that Hungary was prepared to open new border crossing points between Nagyhodos and Palad. Also, the government is prepared to support road construction projects in Transcarpathia with a 50 million euro loan, he added. Hungary has so far supported 34,000 Transcarpathian development project bids with 16 billion forints (EUR 44.6m) in loans and is prepared to extend the M3 and M34 motorways to the Ukrainian border and contribute to building the country’s infrastructure, the minister added.

Concerning humanitarian support, Szijjarto said Hungary has hosted 2,300 Ukrainian children from families affected by conflict in eastern Ukraine in summer camps. The camps will be organised again this summer if the pandemic allows it, he added.

In response to a question, Szijjarto said Hungary has so far treated 42 Ukrainian soldiers injured in the fighting in the country’s eastern Donbass region, adding that this programme, too, would continue.

Szijjarto also noted that Hungary has donated 50 ventilators to Ukraine, 46 of which have gone to hospitals outside Transcarpathia.

Kuleba said there was no basis to assume that the ethnic Hungarian community in Transcarpathia was leaning towards separatism or that Ukraine wanted to harm its Hungarian community in any way.

Kuleba condemned all forms of discrimination against Ukraine’s Hungarian minority and also slammed as “unacceptable” anti-Ukrainian rhetoric “coming from certain political groups”.

The minister said Hungary continued to support his country in the European Union as well as its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Kuleba said a planned meeting between Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was still on the agenda. The two countries are working to make the meeting as successful as possible so that it could allow them to open a new chapter in bilateral relations, he added.

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