Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: MTI

US values central Europe, minister says

Szijjarto: Hungary ‘doesn’t want cold war’

Hungary, a "committed and loyal" NATO member, "would not want another cold war or animosity between East and West", Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said. Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Szijjarto told the Hungarian press that the peoples of central Europe were aware that "calm, peace, civilised cooperation and dialogue based on mutual respect are good".

“Promoting our own interests and values, we must seek mutually beneficial cooperation rather than enemies,” he insisted, noting the global challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic. “We now have to protect the health and lives of people, which makes the importance of international cooperation greater than ever,” he said.

Szijjarto pointed to challenges concerning illegal migration and warned that migration trends offered opportunities to terrorist organisations to send activists to Europe. Fighting terrorism and helping countries in North Africa and the Middle East develop their security capacities should be in NATO’s focus, he said. Szijjarto said efforts against the Islamic State militant group should be continued in Iraq, adding that a new coalition government in Libya could help eliminate “terrorism closely linked to migration”. Stability in the Sahel region could ensure control over illegal migration from Sub-Saharan territories, he said, and also asked his counterparts to continue supporting the Western Balkans, which he said was “the ante-chamber to Europe’s security”.

The minister noted that Hungary was stationing 420 troops in Kosovo, and was planning to send another 100 soldiers to that country. Hungary took over the commandership of the Kosovo mission in November, he added.

Szijjarto also said that Hungary would soon fulfil its commitment made in 2014 to raise its defence spending to 2 percent of GDP. He added that Hungary had already reached its goal of increasing the proportion of development within defence spending to 20 percent.

On the subject of Ukraine, Szijjarto said Hungary’s north-eastern neighbour “keeps making political and legislative decisions which make the life of ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia more difficult”. He said that despite Ukraine’s earlier pledges, “things are not going in the right direction”. As long as Ukraine “systematically violates ethnic minority rights, Hungary will not grant approval to a ministerial level NATO-Ukraine meeting”, he said.

“We are loyal to the alliance and we expect our allies to be loyal to us concerning an extremely important issue,” Szijjarto said.

US values central Europe, minister says

The United States values central Europe, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after a meeting with his NATO counterparts in Brussels on Tuesday, adding that the US and central Europe could be expected to cooperate closely on a number of political and economic issues.

Speaking after talks between the foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group countries and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Szijjarto said the first ever such meeting indicated the strength of the V4 as well as the importance of the central European region.

Hungary stands ready to cooperate with the US at international forums, especially in terms of efforts against terrorism, Szijjarto said at the meeting. He noted that Hungary had been one of the first countries to join a US initiative against the Islamic State militant group, adding that it would uphold that commitment. Hungary and the US have also built good cooperation in supporting persecuted religious communities, he added.

Hungary and the US are linked through their support for Israel, too, Szijjarto said. “Hungary has always rejected unilateral, unfair and biased attacks on Israel,” he said, adding that “Israel, too, deserves a balanced and fair approach”.

The Hungarian government supports the US’s return to the UN Human Rights Council, and will vote to that effect, the minister said.

Szijjarto called it important that the US could be relied on in terms of its support for the EU and NATO integration of the Western Balkans. He also highlighted the Three Seas Initiative as a crucial scheme in ties between the US and central Europe. He said that completion of infrastructure developments were instrumental in ensuring the region’s energy security, and asked Blinken that US companies view those projects as well as schemes aimed at finding new energy sources “as strategic rather than financial ventures”.

Szijjarto said Hungary was proud that US businesses were the second largest investor group in the country, with 1,700 companies employing some 105,000 Hungarians.

“I think that we will be in a position to successfully develop ties between Hungary and the US on a basis of mutual respect in the near future,” Szijjarto said.

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