Foreign minister Peter Szijjarto – Photo: Facebook

Szijjarto: Security of Hungary, Hungarian people paramount during war

The security of Hungary and the Hungarian people are paramount in the midst of a war, Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, told lawmakers in parliament on Monday, arguing that a ceasefire in Ukraine and peace talks "must happen as soon as possible".

“We condemn war … war goes with suffering,” Szijjarto said in response to a statement made by a Ukrainian national minority representative Liliana Grexa. “We stand by Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, and we also support Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the minister said, noting that the government had adopted this position from the very beginning of the war.

Szijjarto said that calling for an end to the war was the only right stance morally speaking. Many of Transcarpathian Hungarians have died, he said. “Not one Luxembourger, Dane or Dutch person has died in this war. But several Hungarians have,” he added.

Noting a visit he made to the Uzhhorod (Ungvar) cemetery in January, he said that seeing the graves of people “who died senselessly at a young age” had convinced him of the need to boost peace endeavours.

Arms shipments and sanctions, he added, were “a strategic mistake” and the policies had “clearly failed”.

Referring to a European Union decision to increase funds for arms shipments by 5 billion euros, Szijjarto said Hungary withheld its veto after receiving an assurance that the country would not have to participate in the deal.

Further, the minister said sanctions had failed “to bring the Russian economy to its knees” while it had caused Europe hardships.

“It’s time to stop the hypocrisy in Europe … and for European countries to stand on the side of peace…” he said.

Szijjarto vowed that the government would stick the course with the “largest humanitarian action” in Hungary’s history. He said Hungary had allowed more than one million refugees from Ukraine into the country and provided access to health care and education to those who stayed, while supporting their employment.

Fully 1,558 kindergartens and schools have refugee students attending, while 500,000 families in 20 Ukrainian counties have received support from Hungarian state, church and charities, he said. Also, Hungary is helping to rebuild schools and hospitals, and has provided 14,000 children with camping holidays.

The minister said the government wanted relations between Hungary and Ukraine to be based on mutual respect, and for that to happen current disputes should be resolved. These, he added, had arisen because the rights of the Transcarpathian Hungarian community had been “violated continuously”.

Meanwhile, on the subject of the war in the Middle East, the minister said international organisations were denying or relativising the situation which “started with a brutal, hellish terrorist attack”.

He said it was vital to condemn the attack against Israel in the strongest possible terms, adding that a successful counter-terrorist operation in Gaza was in the interest of the entire world, with a view to warding off any further attacks of a similar kind.

The priority of the international community “is to prevent the conflict from escalating”, he said. “We Hungarians are intervening, motivated by a desire to help. We pursue a foreign policy strategy based on mutual respect so that we can talk with all players in the Middle East crisis, countries that see things from all sides…”

“We’ve managed to maintain our strategic alliance with Israel by upholding a partnership based on mutual respect while enabling dialogues with Arab countries,” he added.

“Had we not pursued this strategy … then we wouldn’t have managed to save the lives of Hungarian” hostages trapped in Gaza, he said.

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